Friday, January 14, 2011

Jackson Potter: Reformers in Chicago Teachers Union Grapple with Leadership Challenges

When I was in Seattle in July at the AFT convention, I kept asking the new leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union from the CORE caucus who has been elected only weeks before and had taken office a few days before heading to Seattle what is going on in Chicago and why so little seems to be going on in NYC in terms of opposition to Unity Caucus style union leadership. "You need a Jackson" or "We'll send you Jackson" was what they often said. Jackson is Jackson Potter, who is the new staff director of the CTU.

I understood exactly what they meant. I got to hang with Jackson and a bunch of CORE people, along with a great group from the LA teachers union, Candi and Nathan from DC (new leaders of the WTU) and Sally Lee and Megan Behrent from here in NYC in July 2009 in LA where we broke bread and shared ideas. On my last day there I toured around LA with the CORE group and we got to speak of many things about organizing. At that point, winning the election was merely a gleam in their eyes.

But what was clear was that Jackson was a kind of glue or connector who knew everyone and put the pieces together that became CORE. And we certainly could use a Jackson Potter type here in NYC.

Here in a new article in Labor Notes Jackson talks about the challenges facing a caucus that suddenly found itself in charge of the entire union. Here is a short excerpt outlining their program, which is so different from where Unity Caucus and the UFT stands.
CTU has initiated a community board composed of the biggest, strongest community organizations in the city. With these allies CTU can reach out directly to parents, door-knocking and phonebanking.
Together with the community board we’re demanding a superintendent with an education background, instead of another corporate-oriented schools “CEO.”
We’ll fight for an elected school board composed of parents, teachers, administrators, students, and community leaders, as an alternative to the current mayoral control of the schools.
The union has a plan to stop the expansion of charter schools and turnarounds this winter. (The district “turns around” a school by closing and reopening it, firing the entire staff in the process.) Charters receive tons more public resources than public schools, destabilize neighborhood schools, displace students, and don’t provide a better education. We’ll create area hubs that meet, train, and plan with affected communities.
Read Jackson's entire piece:

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