Respect Us, Pay Us and Get Out of Our Way: Today's CPS Board Meeting

CPS principals and assistant principals have worked longer and harder than any other staff in the district during this COVID-19 crisis. Yet district management continues to insult school leaders and take them for granted. 

Yesterday I contacted several principals and APs and asked them, "If you could address the Board of Education and CEO and talk to them openly and freely, what would you say?" Today I combined responses from more than a dozen administrators into one coherent statement for the Board of Education. You can listen to our collective statement on the video below. It starts at the 56:10 time mark.

During the meeting, at least one Board member (Dwayne Truss) pledged to work respectfully with district management to address our grievances. I will contact the other Board members individually and attempt to get commitments from them as well. Our collective statement to the Board was as follows:


Poor Planning

Every crisis the district has faced could have been prevented if principals had a voice and were seriously listened to when the bells were rung. This includes the poor rollout for remote learning where hundreds of pages with hyperlinks and expectations were rolled out without actual supporting logistics. While the district took months to roll out this haphazard assortment of polices and references, they gave principals a week-and-a-half to turn it into an actual plan. Then our planning was hampered because the district wasted hours of our time on modules and PDs composed of the exact same 2025 slides. On top of that, Network chiefs continued to have daylong meetings which left us with even less time to plan, prepare our teachers, and interview candidates to staff our schools, to name just a few tasks that suffered due to CPS’s failure to plan and provide the most basic supports to principals.


Onsite Requirement

And then they hit us with this onsite mandate. If it’s not safe for central office staff to report, or for teachers to report, then it’s not safe for anyone else. Many of us have children who will be learning from home, and we are not COVID immune just because we do not belong to a union. Our lives are no less expendable than our teachers and should not be treated as such.

Certainly, there will be times we need to be onsite. But it should be an "as necessary" requirement rather than an absolute mandate. Let me manage myself and my staff as I see fit. I know when I need to be in the building and when the rest of my admin team does as well. That goes for my clerk, my AP, and my dean of students, too. Step aside and stop getting in the way of principals making those decisions in partnership with their leadership teams.

Stop disrespecting me. 
Stop disrespecting us.

It’s simple. Extend principals and AP’s flexibility to manage their buildings in order to meet student and family needs while also accommodating our own child care, family and health needs.


Before I move on with the principal comments, I will cite administrator compensation data CPS provided us several months late in December of 2019, and only after our attorney forwarded them a copy of the lawsuit we planned to file if they did not release this compensation data.

Average Hourly Wages of Administrators and Teachers

  • CPS pays the average assistant principal $54.77/hour.
  • CPS pays the average principal $69.65/hour.
  • CPS pays the average experienced teacher $70.32/hour.

How this wage discrepancy looks in specific schools

  • At Curie High School, CPS pays the principal less per hour than 53 of the teachers she supervises and pays one of her assistant principals less than 170 of the 200 teachers at Curie.

  • At Green School, CPS pays the assistant principal less per hour than 20 of the 21 teachers she supervises.

  • At Robert A. Black CPS pays the principal less per hour than 20 of the 26 teachers she supervises.

  • CPS pays the assistant principal at Jefferson Alternative School less than 46 of the 48 teachers he supervises. CPS pays him $51 per hour, while it pays $78 per hour to the most senior teacher at Jefferson. 

It makes sense to pay teachers well. However, it makes absolutely no sense to pay their supervisors less. Principals have told me repeatedly that they can’t get good teachers to become assistant principals because those teachers don’t want to take the pay cut that comes with becoming an assistant principal. Despite this, CPS sent administrators a letter yesterday informing them that the district would not make them whole by addressing these compensation inadequacies. The following is how several principals responded:

This is absolutely unacceptable. We’ve made sacrifices in the past with furlough days. We endured the insult of 10% hazard pay when everyone else got 50%. When teachers and other staff were at home during the spring closures, we staffed our buildings to get food and computers to students and families. We have worked longer hours than any other staff the entire last quarter.  

In the midst of all of this, Matt Lyons sends us this email to tell us that they won’t make us whole by addressing this compensation gap, and they give us this insulting pep talk about how our work is so valuable that they won’t pay us for it. 

I will continue to hand out devices at my school because I care about my students but I cannot continue to do the job of the clerk, tech coordinator, nurse, etc., and then get insulted. Please fight for us and bring this to light. We are burning out. We are stressed. We are exhausted and our health is degrading.

Lead, or Get Out of Our Way

We are at a breaking point. Principals have made this district. More of us need to be brought into all CPS departments, including Law. 

The communication from CPS management is tone-deaf and schizophrenic. It goes something like this: “We’re doing remote learning so principals, your own school-age children will be learning from home. Meanwhile, report to your building, but don’t bring your children. We appreciate your tireless work, but we won’t pay you for it. We value principal autonomy, but we won’t give you any. We’re going to take all summer to roll out half-baked remote learning guidance, but then give you less than two weeks to turn it into a workable plan. On top of that, we’ll stand in your way at every turn with useless redundant compliance mandates that will eat up all or most of your instructional leadership time. But be sure to get those test scores up. By the way, CTU is telling clerks to not report to work tomorrow, but your schedule is due in ASPEN ASAP.

That, in conclusion, is the life of a CPS principal under the management team that’s in place at CPS. They may be competent for another place and another time, but they are certainly not rising to the occasion when you look at what’s needed in this district, at this moment. The hybrid model rollout was a disaster. The failure to plan for remote learning was a disaster. The rollout of the current guidance is a disaster, and whatever the district does or tries to do in October or November is likely to be a disaster if you leave this management in place, in this district, at this moment.

Our principals need leadership, but we don’t even have good district management, let alone effective leadership. So I ask you to find the courage to do what must be done, and remove these obstacles from the paths of our principals and replace them with people who can lead, or at least not get in the way of the people who do lead: the principals and assistant principals of Chicago Public Schools.


That was our statement. As I mentioned, Board member Dwayne Truss publicly pledged to work respectfully with district management to address our grievances. I will contact the other Board members individually and attempt to get commitments from them as well. More importantly, we must continue the organizing work we've been doing at the network level and expand it all over the city so that we can develop our capacity to act collaboratively and collectively. That has always been the greatest source of power for any group of working people to have their grievances addressed and solved. Once that work is done, it won't just be me meeting with CPS Board members, but principals and AP representatives from across the district will be meeting with them and sharing their concerns and hopes for CPS. Several CPS Board members have already expressed interest in having an audience with representatives that you select. There are so many other things we'll be able to do once we build our capacity to collaborate and act collectively. Let's get this done and move forward.