The Trib’s Secret Project

Re: “Your New Sunday Tribune? A leaked dummy shows long stories on bright paper—with no ads. Would you pay for it?” by Michael Miner, September 2

I think this is a fantastic idea. It’s refreshing to see the Tribune trying to play to the STRENGTHS of the print medium, rather than just trying to pad it with an insane amount of AP content and ads. —miketewing

I admire the ambition so far as it goes, but its competition will be what, the New Yorker and the Atlantic? Which are rather less than $260 a year these days.

The thing that this doesn’t let go of is the idea that we want a portmanteau publication with a little bit of everything in it. A Life magazine, a Sears catalog. But that’s not where the world has gone. Instead of Sears where you can go to one store to get everything, you have the mall where you can go to 100 stores to get everything. The real innovation will come when the newspaper realizes that it’s a content creation collective which can take many final forms. Put out a sports publication, put out a politics publication, put out arts and food and lifestyle publications; draw on the same staff, use each to cross-sell the others, but recognize that the reader’s mentality is no longer that I wanted every subject pushed through the sausage grinder of the same editorial staff and made to fit the same format in the same way. —Michael Gebert

“Instead of Sears where you can go to one store to get everything, you have the mall where you can go to 100 stores to get everything.”

Whoo! I almost thought it was 1980 when I read that. I’m pretty sure that the retail landscape has gone back the other way. And it did so decades ago. You cannot find a little bit of everything in malls anymore. If you go to an average mall you will normally find very few products other than clothes, cosmetics, jewelry, and perhaps some luggage and stationery. In 2010, people normally do go to one store to purchase a little bit of everything. Wal-Mart and Target, of course, are the most popular. —The original IAC

A subscription to most magazines these days is in the $12-15/year range and fewer people than ever are making even that meager investment. And, for God’s sake, who pays $6 for a Sunday Times, when you can get the whole for weekend for almost half that price by subscribing?

With Zell and his radio goons preoccupied with their own fates these days, some of the Tower mice are having fun playing with what’s left of his money. —gdretzka

As for Chicago Live “bringing the hottest stories . . . in Chicago to the stage” what are we talking about? Tap dancing obits? Musical box scores? Or perhaps bringing in Louis Black for a dramatic reading of the Blago tapes . . . actually, that might work. —DeBartolo

What makes them think that part of making it a better product is having no ads? Newspapers are the medium in which the audience least minds having ads—they’re not interruptive like broadcast commercials. In fact they tend to think of them as a service, newspapers being the place to go, for instance, to see who has a good sale on when they’re in the market for a car, a mattress, an air conditioner. or what shows are in the theaters. —C

I agree that a thoughtful advertising section, e.g. movie listings in a movie section, would be more than welcome. But I fear that that inevitably leads to the available advertising determining the publication’s sections, e.g. real estate and automotive sections. —MrJM

Yes, I speak from some experience as an advertising media buyer. . . . But I’ve always observed that the most successful magazines let themselves be editorial-driven, attract a loyal and valuable audience, and then go after ads that are really relevant and complement the environment as well as do the fashion ads in Vogue. —C

“The gravitas and handsome design of Five Star reminds me of upscale British Sunday papers like the Times and Guardian.”

The Guardian is Mon-Sat. It’s the Observer that’s essentially the Sunday edition of the Guardian. —redlion

Redefined Teachers

Re: “Define ‘Redefinition’: Exemplary art teacher Sunny Neater-DuBow was fired without due process because CPS says her job has been redefined. So why is her exact job now posted as an opening?” by Ben Joravsky, September 2

Ben Joravsky, I love you. Thank you for telling these stories and reminding people that teachers are not the enemy and that in fact, our profession is under undue attack and the public is being told to ignore the assault. As a CPS teacher, I am blessed to have a job still after 8 years in the system, but the name of the game is fear. We work 12 hour days often to do our jobs well, but we are paid for 6 hours and then told what we are doing is not enough. Thank you, thank you for telling these stories. Maybe more people will wake up and realize that real education reform does not involve wholesale firings and closing of schools. We need investment, professional development and autonomy. —jenj23

I am a 17 year veteran Art Teacher, rated Superior for the last 14 years, and have applied for and been awarded over $90,000 in grant money during the course of my career with CPS. I too was “laid off” without due process, (“Honorably dismissed due to a reallocation of funds”). Hence, my daughter and I no longer have health benefits as of September 30th, my pension is now at risk as I was only 3 years away from the minimum 20 years needed to retire, and at 58 years of age, I am competing with art teachers younger and less salaried. —Origina

Ben, the reason Sunny’s termination letter wasn’t signed by a person is because the person who used to sign the letters, Nancy Slavin, was herself terminated. You can’t make this stuff up! It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic. —CTUCarol

While watching an evening news report on Congress passing a bill to save teaching jobs, I received the “firing” call from my principal. I asked him about the federal money that would be coming to the schools, and my first-year principal told me that he would be happy to look over my resume for any future openings at the school. A week later I was offered my position back and I accepted. Two of my colleagues who are also tenured were not called back. Our school made two new hires to replace these teachers. Just amazing. —Shorty Lee Lowe

Did [Joravsky] bother to speak to the principal about this? The LSC? Doesn’t sound like it. That’s where these decisions get made, not in Uberland.

If he had, he would have known that, if she looked at the principals program, the teacher had to have known about her impending layoff back in May; that as an “Arts” school the principal and the LSC thought it only right to have some performing arts curriculum and way back in January decided to offer dance, which students quickly filled up during January registration. He would also know that the LSC and principal worked to leverage resources among three of the four small schools at Little Village so that students have a full array of visual and performance art offerings.

While it sounds like he at least tried for an explanation about the vacancy “posting,” I think if he asked any reassigned teacher he would know that CPS vacancy reports are not “postings” but notoriously inaccurate and not up-to-date budget reports and that to the extent there are real postings within CPS it’s on the e-bulletin. Read the reassigned teachers comments on the 299 blog if you don’t believe it.

Look, I hope the teacher finds a job really quickly. I have read and heard about this poor teacher alot over the last few weeks and if she’s as good a teacher as she is a media darling, then she’ll make someone a wonderful Art teacher. But some perspective and balance please. . . .

Like it or not, about 22 years ago, principals and LSCs became the primary employer of teachers and the people who most directly affect teachers’ jobs. But it is in fact both a blessing and a curse for teachers while it has been largely to the good for students and their achievement.

So why does no one ask: Does the teacher bear any responsibility in this? What made her so dispensable from the LSC and principal’s perspective? . . .

Teachers keep saying that Central Office needs to stay out of local decisions. I agree. But I guess teachers really mean they want local decision making, except when they don’t like the decision. —Contrarian

Ben Joravsky replies:

Contrarian: The point of my story was not to dive into the tangle of one school’s politics, as fascinating as that might be, but to expose the implementation of a system-wide policy that circumvents the union contract.

But you raise a good point. Ultimately, local principals have to be held accountable for the way they use the authority Huberman and the board gives them.

When I was fired in August, I was dumbfounded. I received no indication prior to August that my position was in jeopardy of being closed. None.

Teachers want the Board or the local school to make fair and consistent decisions. The recent mass firings were neither. . . .

Our principal, now retired, repeatedly told the entire staff that all cuts in staffing were out of her hands. Since our principal was the Board’s representative in the school, I took her at her word. —Shorty Lee Lowe

To the writer who believes it “grossly unfair to blame (Huberman) and central office for decisions a principal and LSC made and that he really cannot control.”

Really, Huberman can do nothing? Then why did he feature a big media event as he entered Julian High School on the southside last school year to remove the principal from the building, never to return? Remember, principals are elected by LSCs, right? Please, understand the hierarchy of power. —jvail900

I also lost my position at MAS due to “Redefinition.” I am a science teacher and this would have been my eighth year in CPS (my fifth year at MAS). I had the most seniority in the science department and I even got my chemistry endorsement so I could teach all science classes, so I thought my position was safe. . . .

Contrarian called Ms. Neater a “media darling.” Let me tell you that she has been the only person who has been brave enough to tell the story about what is really going on at MAS. Unfortunately, all of the changes have occurred too quickly and/or we were all frozen into inaction by fear and now there are only five or six teachers still there from last year (that’s almost a 75 percent turnover, friends). Don’t tell me that a sustainable school is built from that sort of turnover. There is now only one founding teacher left at the school. —ms. adams

The same thing happened at my school. 16 out of 30 teachers were laid off, most with 10 or more years of experience. Our first year principal has now hired 12 others to replace us. These new hires are first year or nontenured teachers. This is an OUTRAGE!! I have been looking for another teaching job with CPS but there is nothing because 1,200 others are also looking. After all is said and done, the Chicago Teachers Union and ALL CPS teachers better NOT support Daily [sic] and his underhanded cronies in the next election. —Rosie714

There is a sign on a CPS school in my neighborhood that reads, “Welcome Teachers for America.” I get really angry every time I see it as I am reminded that CPS has hired hundreds of brand spanking new first year teachers and fired thousands of veteran, tenured teachers. What I find most distressing about all of this is it appears that CPS is getting away with murder. Karen [Lewis] has filed the lawsuit but to date there have been no injunctions, court orders, or intervention to save our jobs and send fired teachers back into the classrooms until due process is given to everyone currently without a job. We’re just done. No reassigned pool, heck, we can’t even be substitute teachers. . . .

We’re looking for jobs that no longer exist and many of us have no idea what we are going to do while we try and change careers and find new jobs. Meanwhile, those at the top aren’t losing sleep or offering to reach into their pockets or take pay cuts to help those of us who are now unemployed. —Bmach

At a time when many are losing their jobs or facing pay cuts, Chicago’s teachers could have saved Ms. Neater-DuBow’s job, and those of many other teachers, by forgoing their pay raise. Teachers talk about how much they care about kids. But when they were asked to make a sacrifice for the kids they refused. —children should come first