Darnell A. Dowd
REAL President Candidate
Real Teaching Experience
I’ve been an elementary school teacher for over 15 years in our most impoverished neighborhoods. From Chicago's west side at Herzl Elementary to its south side schools (Morgan, Metcalfe and Ray), my students and I suffered the disparities that plague our most vulnerable communities. Everything from the outdated materials to the dilapidated buildings screamed, "You are not a priority!” I saw teachers whose hearts bled for their students and used every personal resource to help them overcome these obstacles. The real struggle to do our jobs and educate and serve our children continues with fewer resources now than when I started teaching over fifteen years ago. We need our union to fight for our members now more than ever.
Real Union Experience
I am a proud member of the Chicago Teachers Union. I served as a union delegate at Metcalfe Elementary and I am the new delegate at Ray Elementary. I work tirelessly to make sure that every member’s voice is heard and that our administration adheres to our contract. Delegates are the first on the line and hold that line when no one else does. The CTU’s failure to support delegates with an effective Grievance Department has resulted in buildings with no delegates. There are over 100 schools without delegates. Teachers and staff in 100 schools are not receiving the basic, the MOST BASIC benefits of being in a Union – due process and equitable sharing of resources. With no one to stop them, no one to call them out, this is how bully principals win. If you’re in one of those schools, you know what I am talking about. My running mate Joey has helped schools remove harmful, bully principals and admin. He will head up the new, expanded Grievance Department under REAL leadership and represent ALL members at ALL schools. And step 1 is a DELEGATE in every building!
Too often CTU leadership has sold members and all of Chicago wolf tickets. We have been made a spectacle of with our leaders cast as the head jesters while the members became the target of hecklers. The weight of our educators’ voice is now diminished. We need to unify and rebuild this Union from the ground up.
We can fix this. By undoing the decade of damage that has tattered the hope of our members, we can win again. We can gain back lost ground and build on the values set forth by our forerunners like Karen Lewis and Jackie Vaughan.
Joseph “Joey” McDermott.
REAL Vice-President Candidate
This is my 24th year as a CPS employee. I taught 12 years at Crane High School (5 years as delegate) on the west side, 9 years as a CTU field rep and 3 years at Prosser High School on the west/northwest side. I’m a father of three and have been a CPS parent for 15 years. I spent 12 years as a CPS student at Newberry Elementary (as part of school busing for desegregation) and Lincoln Park HS. I grew up in the Logan Square and Edgewater communities and presently live in the Galewood area of Austin.
As a delegate I witnessed the crushing impact of both Renaissance 2010 and the CHA plan for transformation. The Crane community lost thousands of families through the demolition of Rockwell Gardens, Henry Horner Homes and ABLA public housing. Our attendance boundary added Noble UIC HS, Noble Chicago Bulls, Phoenix Military Academy and Marine Leadership Academy. Crane then lost special programs like Metro and the Academic Center. Our union was not prepared to fight back against the forces that impacted our schools and members. These experiences led me to seek a change in CTU leadership in 2010.
I was hired in 2010 as a CTU field rep. I worked hard to develop delegates as leaders and PPC’s as an impactful force in their schools. I was part of arbitration cases that won rights for school counselors, teachers laid off for “redefinition” and delegates that were retaliated against. I was also part of multiple campaigns to remove abusive and tyrant principals. I was the field rep for negotiating teams that led the first charter school strike and the team that negotiated the CPS grading policy.
As CTU Vice-President I plan to be heavily involved in strategic bargaining and the grievance department. CTU presently has 100’s of grievances that have waited upwards of three years to go to arbitration. The impact is members who feel exploited, abused and hopeless. We must resolve and settle issues informally, in order to prioritize the cases that need arbitration. I also plan to address issues of principal abuse through organizing staff and parents to collectively fight back. Finally, we must be transparent about CTU spending. When we spend money ethically and morally, our members will be more engaged in our collective fights to protect our educators, students and schools.
REAL Financial Secretary Candidate
This is year 14 in Chicago Public Schools and in those 14 years, I have been at an AUSL school, a neighborhood school, an alternative school, and a selective enrollment school. I started as a resident teacher at Chicago Academy High School. After one year there, I got a job at Bronzeville Scholastic Institute, in the old DuSable High School, teaching Social Studies. After being one of the 2500 teachers ‘pink slipped’ in 2010 due to massive budget cuts across the district, I moved to Peace and Education Alternative High School in the Back of the Yards neighborhood where I taught English and Social Studies and then eventually moved to Special Education. After spending nearly 5 years there, I moved to Lindblom Math and Science Academy as a Special Education teacher.
I currently teach Social Science (AP US History, Law, Economics, and honors US History) at Lindblom Math and Science Academy, where I have taught for the past 7 years.
Leadership Roles and Accomplishments in the Union
Since 2010, I have served as delegate of my school. In 2016, I was elected to the Executive Board as a functional vice president. Soon after, I became a Trustee for Union’s finances. With the leadership of me and the other trustees, we reformed the way that Trustees interacted with the budget-making process. Those difficult decisions led to the replacement of the accountant at the time, electing a new chair of the Trustees to increase transparency, and pushing to truly go through the budget development process in a transparent way. At the local level, as delegate of Lindblom, we have a record of leading in union actions. During 2016 negotiations we organized a Work-to-Rule action that became the model and standard for the rest of the district. In addition to the previously stated roles, I served on the 2016 and 2019 Big Bargaining teams, helping to negotiate the last two contracts. My proudest accomplishments on the big bargaining team was rejecting famous January 2016 the offer that leadership wanted us to take before we even had the ability to strike (it was a terrible deal) and advocating hard for sports at the bargaining table in 2019, ultimately playing an integral role in securing that $25 million additional funding for sports programs across the district (and it still isn’t enough).
What brought you to union work
Joining AUSL without understanding the politics of closings and turnarounds quickly radicalized me. I realized how wrong the AUSL model is for students in our city, but that was a complex feeling because I realized how much I benefitted from having an AUSL mentor teacher (that I still keep in contact with 14 years later!) When I was pink slipped in 2010, I joined union work and learned how to organize members against the injustices that students, parents, teachers, and families face across this city on every level. For me, I knew that students deserved stability in their schools and teachers deserved a school that they could grow and develop in and ultimately spend their career teaching at. I believed that union work was a way that I could fight to improve the profession, which is good for both students and teachers.
Your hope for the future of CTU
A budget is a moral document: it tells us what we value and what we don’t care about. If I am elected financial secretary, I want to build a transparent space for budget advocacy. Wards have participatory budgeting, why can’t we? Elections, being under the purview of the financial secretary, are also important to me. Every school needs to have a delegate that is educated and empowered to advocate for members. These two issues–a transparent budget and a delegate at every school–are the baseline for how we truly educate members advocate for their students, their schools, their communities, their colleagues, and themselves.
Recording Secretary Candidate
Years at CPS:
I have been a CPS teacher and CTU member for 22 years. I began my career at John F. Kennedy H.S. in 2000, and taught Sociology, U.S. and World History (Regular and Bilingual), Bilingual Economics, ESL I, II, and III, and Law in American Society. I’ve been teaching at Washington H.S. for the past 17 years. I have coached Girls Volleyball and sponsored Spirit Squad,Girls Who Code, and Close Up Washington D.C. student clubs.
Beginning in 2018, I have been teaching Exploring Computer Science.
Leadership Roles and Accomplishments in the Union:
I served as Strike Captain in 2016 and worked closely with my delegates during the 2019 strike, helping mobilize the members at our school, fighting and marching with CTU members for a better contract, networking with teachers from our feeder schools, participating in neighborhood gatherings and collaborations, coordinating canvassing efforts in our community, and keeping members updated on bargaining. I take pride in having attended CTU marches and rallies when Karen Lewis was president.
As a veteran teacher, I have become an expert in Union retirement benefits and financial security options for members and have made presentations at union meetings explaining changes CPS has made to our financial and retirement benefits (AIG/403b). As a current PPC member, I ask questions and listen to concerns and frustrations of colleagues and, alongside my delegates and fellow PPC members, relay those to the administration to ensure that the contractual rights of my colleagues are met.
What brought you to union work:
I come from a union family. My dad was a butcher for over 40 years and was the union delegate for his company. We were a household that believed in strong union solidarity and when REAL was created, I found that my perspective and ideas were welcomed, respected, validated, and aligned with REAL’s platform. I’m all ears when listening to members regarding their ever-worsening working conditions and CPS’s teacher and staff abuse. I realized it was my duty to join REAL and take a vital role in making the changes that we need in our current union become a reality. I feel supported by the caucus and I am motivated to run for Recording Secretary on a winning REAL slate!
Your hope for the future of CTU if we win:
We must unify this union. We have become divided. In an effort to build this solidarity, we need strong leadership and the union needs a new direction. REAL will create a member-driven, democratically formed union in which members have a loud voice and dissenting opinions will not be silenced. REAL will focus on educating members on their labor rights and benefits, lifting them as leaders and inviting them to all levels of organizing, and empowering them to take on or continue in leadership and delegate roles within their schools. Our current representation has been out of the schools for over a decade and has fallen out of touch with members’ daily struggles. We are teachers and staff. We KNOW what you face, because we do too. Please vote for me and the REAL slate.