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Mon May 25, 2015, 12:58 PM

*If Any Charter School Needs a Union, Itís Urban Prep*



The working conditions I experienced at Urban Prep were the worst of my career, which has been spent entirely in the inner city.

The working conditions I experienced at Urban Prep were the worst of my career, which has been spent entirely in the inner city. I used my personal resources to make copies because Urban Prep would not purchase sufficient amounts of paper; I brought my personal laptop to school since a computer was not provided; lessons came from the Internet because no textbooks were purchased. Like all Urban Prep teachers, I was frequently forced to give up at least one of my two *prep* periods Ė time I needed to grade, tutor students in need of extra help, and eat my own lunch Ė to substitute for my colleagues who were absent. The reason? Urban Prep, with its $70,000 staff retreat and $250,000 downtown office space, claimed it could not afford to hire substitute teachers.

While students attempt to prepare for college without books or computers (let alone a research based curriculum that would truly help to close the gap between themselves and their more affluent peers), and teachers attempt to deliver lessons without paper (while also going without lunch), Mr. Tim King pays himself six figures and enjoys spectacular views from his office across from the Trump Tower. Yet somehow, nobody is supposed to have this information. Weíre all supposed to swallow the mythology that Mr. King is the benevolent Pied Piper of Chicagoís African American adolescent male population. If that were true, each of the three Urban Prep campuses would have resources to rival affluent suburban districts. But instead, Mr. King has an awesome downtown office to throw poker parties for his rich friends, and the teachers and students of Urban Prep work and learn in a very typical inner city environment devoid of paper, textbooks, and rigor.


From the comments:

Urban Prep management used PD time on Wednesday for yet another anti-union captive audience meeting, showing them a PPT about all the things they ďmightĒ lose if they unionize. At at least one campus, management compared the union campaign to children questioning the better judgment of the parents, to which one teacher said, ďSo, if Iím a child with holes in my shoes and my father is driving a Mercedes, I canít question that?Ē

Itís also true that Urban Prep provides no textbooks to its students. I spend hours each week seeking out the highest quality Internet lessons I can find. Itís not much better than home-schooling, and itís far from the research-based, results-driven education that our students deserve, particularly because so many of them enter our doors as 9th graders performing at least two years below their same-age peers in the suburbs.

Itís funny that Urban Prep schools have so few resources, because there is no shortage of money flowing into our network. The problem is that our boss, Mr. Tim King, decided to spend that money in other ways.

As Dave Woo wrote earlier, Mr. King decided to pay himself $220,000 annually to oversee the operations of the three schools in our network. By comparison, the CEO of Chicago Public Schools, responsible for over 600 buildings, earns $250,000. Other network executives, and principals, earn six figure salaries as well.

He decided to rent out an expansive office suite directly across the street from the Trump Tower, costing $250,000 annually.

He decided that Urban Prep should have an annual retreat at a conference center in St. Charles, IL, costing $70,000 annually.

He decided to spend $100,000 last year on consultants and lobbyists.

I guess Tim Kingís personal agenda is more important to him than the education he provides to his students, not to mention the working conditions he provides to his teachers.

Recently my colleagues and I decided to unionize. Our administrators are reacting very badly to this decision. They are trying to convince us that itís the wrong move, that weíre trying to hurt Urban Prep, forcing us to sit through anti-union propaganda sessions in the name of professional development, and in one instance, even comparing us, the teachers who give our blood and guts to our students and to the Urban Prep mission each and every day, to children who need the paternalistic guidance of administration to handle matters we canít possibly understand. What an infuriating and arrogant statement to make to hard working adults who in some cases are older than the administrators themselves!

What they donít understand is that weíre trying to do just one thing Ė hold Tim King and his inner circle accountable for the decisions they make and the money they spend.

Perhaps Tim King doesnít want to give up his lavish office, his annual retreat, and his lobbyists.

But perhaps my colleagues, our community, our students, and our families deserve more than the substandard education they are receiving today, despite the glowing statistics of success which are accepted at face value with little scrutiny.

Think of what would be possible if the $420,000 Tim King currently spends on lobbyists, retreats, and posh office space was divided between the three Urban Prep campuses. Think of the educational resources we could offer our students, the opportunities they could enjoy, how quickly they could reach and exceed their proper grade level.

Our union might help that dream become reality.

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