seeking a match

Voices from the 2013 high school search: Roselyn Jimenez

Roselyn Jimenez

Roselyn Jimenez, 12, was on the verge of tears when she entered the cafeteria packed with students and school booths for the Manhattan high school fair. “I don’t want to be here,” she said.

Jimenez said she was overwhelmed partly at the chaos in the room but also, in a larger sense, at the thought of growing up. “I’m not ready for high school,” she said. “It’s scary.”

Jimenez said that most of her friends at M.S. 319 want to go to George Washington High School, but she doesn’t.  “They think it’s going to be like middle school,” she said. But she thinks George Washington would be much different from middle school. “It has a lot of gangs,” she said.

Before the fair, Jimenez said, she didn’t know what high school she wanted to go to, or even what questions to ask to find out. Her mother, Ingrid Mota, pulled her from Inwood Academy Charter School this year and moved her to M.S. 319 because she didn’t think her daughter was learning enough. “She was having problems with other girls, like gossip, he-said, she-said,” said Mota.

Because of the change in middle schools, Jimenez said, she still hadn’t met her counselor at M.S. 319, and hadn’t received any guidance at school for how to apply to high schools.

Jimenez said her favorite school activity is drawing, but she had not kept any of her drawings to put into a portfolio required for the schools specializing in art.

Jimenez saw the “uniform school” sign taped above the New York Lab’s School’s booth and stepped backward. She shook her head and said, “No.” But her mom approached the booth anyway, even as her daughter — with four earrings in one ear, color added to her hair, stretch pants and a black sports jacket — refused to come any closer.

At the booth for the Urban Assembly Gateway School for Technology, student Alec Cruz, a junior, immediately read Jimenez’s body language and said, “You’re not that into this, are you?” Cruz ended up chatting with Jimenez, offering stories about how the school offers bonfires, games, and other programs to help ninth graders acclimate.

“It sounds cool. They take the new kids and help them bond with each other,” said Jimenez.

Socializing is something Jimenez prides herself on. She sent text messages frequently during the fair and said she has more than 6,000 friends and followers on Facebook. “They call me Facebook famous,” Jimenez said.

A social connection finally drew Jimenez’s interest in a school. When she saw the booth for the Global Language Collaborative, a high school on the Upper West Side, she remembered that a friend had attended the school and gone on a trip with teachers and students to China.

“I love traveling. It’s exciting because you’re in a new place,” said Jimenez. She has already visited the Dominican Republic with her family and toured the American South with her sister and cousin, where she got to see Dolly Parton. Based on that, she said she liked Global Language Collaborative. Maybe, she said, she’d go on some cool trips in high school.

Mota looked up, as if thanking the heavens, and said, “At least she likes one school.”

Oliver Morrison is a student at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

union power

Charter teachers won big in nation’s first strike. What now?

PHOTO: Yana Kunichoff / Chalkbeat
Teachers from Acero charter schools in Chicago protest stalled negotiations Oct. 24, 2018, as they readied to vote on authorizing a strike.

Some 500 unionized teachers joined in the nation’s first charter strike last week, and succeeded in negotiating wage increases, smaller class sizes and a shorter school day. Their gains could foreshadow next year’s citywide contract negotiations — between the Chicago Teachers Union, with its contract expiring in June, and Chicago Public Schools.

“The issue of class size is going to be huge,” said Chris Geovanis, the union’s director of communications. “It is a critically important issue in every school.”

Unlike their counterparts in charters, though, teachers who work at district-run schools can’t technically go on strike to push through a cap on the number of students per class. That’s because the Illinois Education Labor Relations Act defines what issues non-charter public school teachers can bargain over, and what issues can lead to a strike.

An impasse on issues of compensation or those related to working conditions, such as length of the school day or teacher evaluations, could precipitate a strike. But disagreements over class sizes or school closures, among other issues, cannot be the basis for a strike.

The number of students per class has long been a point of contention among both district and charter school teachers.

Educators at Acero had hopes of pushing the network to limit class sizes to 24-28 students, depending on the grade. However, as Acero teachers capped their fourth day on the picket line, they reached an agreement with the charter operator on a cap of 30 students — down from the current cap of 32 students.

Andy Crooks, a special education apprentice, also known as a teacher’s aide, at Acero’s Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz school and a member of the teachers bargaining team, said that even having two fewer students in a classroom would make a huge difference.

“You really do get a lot more time with your students,” Crooks said. “And if you are thinking about kindergarten in particular, two less 5-year-olds really can help set the tone of the classroom.”

In district-run schools, classes are capped at 28 students in kindergarten through third grade, and at 31 students in fourth through sixth grade. But a survey by the advocacy group Parents 4 Teachers, which supports educators taking on inequality, found that during the 2017-2018 school year, 21 percent of K-8 classrooms had more students than district guidelines allowed. In 18 elementary school classrooms, there were 40 or more students.

The issue came up at last week’s Board of Education meeting, at which Ivette Hernandez, a parent of a first-grader at Virgil Grissom Elementary School in the city’s Hegewisch neighborhood, said her son’s classes have had more than 30 students in them. When the children are so young and active — and when they come into classrooms at so many different skill levels — “the teachers can’t handle 30 kids in one class,” she told the board.

Alderman Sue Garza, a former counselor, accompanied Hernandez. She also spoke before the board about classroom overcrowding — worrying aloud that, in some grades at one school in particular, the number of students exceeded the building’s fire codes. (Board chair Frank Clark said a district team would visit the school to ensure compliance fire safety policies.)

While the Chicago Teachers Union aren’t technically allowed to strike over class sizes, the union does have a history of pushing the envelope when it comes to bargaining.

Back in 2012, when the Chicago Teachers Union last went on strike, they ended up being able to secure the first limit on class sizes in 20 years because the district permitted the union to bargain over class size.

They also led a bargaining campaign that included discussion over racial disparities in Chicago education and school closures, arguing that these trends impacted the working conditions of teachers.

“Even if you can’t force an employer to bargain over an issue, you can push them to bargain over the impact of an issue,” Bob Bruno, a labor professor at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, explained.

The Chicago Teachers Union also emerged from its 2012 negotiations with guarantees of additional “wraparound services,” such as access to onsite social workers and school counselors.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

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