The tension brought by the Chicago teachers’ strike may be gone, but parents at A.N. Pritzker Elementary School in Wicker Park have a new reason to worry.
“We are concerned with the lack of substitutes not only at Pritzker but in the district as a whole,” said Amy-Lynn Vero, a parent of a first-grader at Pritzker Elementary.
Pritzker is a gifted public school with a special field in fine and performing arts as well as special education.
“Our students have had their specials class canceled at least once a week since the school year has started,” Vero said. “This is a concern of ours, we understand that it’s city-wide, but how are we monitoring this?”
Vero is also uncertain whether some substitutes are qualified to teach.
“The lessons that are being taught are just filler lessons that are not advancing the academic abilities of the students,” she said.
Pritzker principal Joenile Albert-Reese is not the only school official dealing with a lack of substitute teachers to fill in spots at Pritzker.
“The whole district wide is suffering a lack of substitutes to cover the number of teachers who have taken off,” Reese said. “I don’t see that changing at all in the near future.”
Pritzker Elementary has recently started to take teachers out of their own classrooms to help out other classrooms when teachers take days off.
“It’s pretty hard not to pull teachers from classes. On Friday we had five teachers out and only one substitute,” said Barbra Abdullah-Smith, assistant principal at Pritzker Elementary.
Pritzker has a certain amount of substitutes available each day and uses it to their full advantage when they can.
“I have a list and we go down the list so that no one person is taken every day and everyone takes their turns,” Reese said. “We can only use the people that we have.”
The criterion has changed to be employed as a substitute teacher in Chicago Public Schools. CPS has recently changed its policy so that schools would have more opportunities for substitutes – but now substitutes have to be certified under the state of Illinois in order to be eligible among other requirements.
The Local School Council (LSC) has limited jurisdiction as to what they can do to resolve this problem. They do encourage parents, teachers, and community members to help create a plan to help resolve these issues that are brought up.
“The role of the LSC is not to resolve issues but to help share concerns so that we monitor the principal is doing to resolve these concerns,” said Kathy McNamara, the chairperson at Pritzker Elementary Local School Council.
Brooke Milar, a parent of a student at Pritzker, wants to start a task force to help with the lack of substitutes.
“I’m very interested in creating a task force that is both parent’s and staff to keep the conversation going about the issue.”
Katie Fromm, a third-grade teacher at Pritzker Elementary said that everyone is affected and there should be no issue of getting help within the community with the task force.
“It’s unfair to the school as a whole, so we are not going to have a problem getting teachers on this task force,” Fromm said. “However, as a teacher if I called to the CPS about this issue it won’t do anything but if a parent calls, it holds a lot more weight.”
Reese is on board with the community to create the task force with and wants to see growth.
“What I’m interested in the task force doing is some creative ways on how to not take teachers from their call of duty and still cover classes with certified people,” she said.