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), I’ve experienced the disparities that continue to plague our populations most vulnerable. I’ve come up against the roadblocks put forth by a system that countered my goal of properly educating my students. It became immediately apparent that my students weren’t a priority to our school system. Everything from the outdated materials, or lack thereof, to the dilapidated buildings themselves, screamed, "You are not a priority!”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 less now than when I started over fifteen years ago. We need our union now more than ever.

Real Union Experience

I am a proud member of the Chicago Teachers Union. I’ve served as a union delegate at Metcalfe elementary and I am the new delegate at Ray elementary. I worked tirelessly to make sure that every member’s voice was heard and that our administration honored and adhered to our contract. Delegates are the first on the line and hold the line when no one else does. I believe that the breakdown of communication and the failure to support our delegates have contributed to the absence and lack of interest in filling these roles in our schools. This is how bully principals win.

Real Tired

We have witnessed a show and been peddlers of wolf tickets at our own expense. Money and resources that some of us will never recoup. The weight that our voice used to carry within ranks, and the community at large has dropped to an all time low. We have been made a spectacle with our leaders cast as the head jesters while we, the members become the targets of hecklers.

Real Change

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.

Alison Eichhorn
REAL Financial Secretary Candidate

Teaching Experience

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.

Current Position

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.

Erika Meza
REAL Recording Secretary Candidate

Years at CPS

I have been a CPS teacher 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 left in 2005 to a position in my neighborhood high school, George Washington H.S. in the Southeast side where I was born and raised. I took on the role as Bilingual Lead Teacher (BLT as it was called at the time). I’ve been teaching at Washington H.S. for the past 17 years and have taught in the Social Studies department for 14 of those years. I’ve coached Girls Volleyball and sponsored after school clubs including Spirit Squad, Girls Who Code, and Close Up Washington D.C.

Current Position

Beginning in 2018, I became endorsed and have been teaching ECS (Exploring Computer Science).

Leadership Roles and Accomplishments in the Union

I have been a CTU member for over two decades and experienced two strikes in my career. I served as a Strike Captain in the 2012 strike and also 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. I have also attended HOD meetings and make it a priority to attend all school union meetings in which I listen to concerns of members, have made suggestions to our delegates on concerns to add to the “list of 100” and shared suggestions on actions I would take. I recently participated in efforts to unionize by taking lead roles during union zoom meetings and updating members regarding the work stoppage in January, 2022. As a veteran teacher, I became more involved in learning about the retirement benefits and financial security options for members. I have presented at union meetings the changes that our Employer has made to our financial and retirement benefits (AIG/403b). I have made myself available to colleagues after my presentations to provide any additional information or assistance they needed. As a current PPC member, I listen to the contractual concerns and frustration of colleagues, administer and evaluate surveys to gauge the culture and climate of the building as well as contribute to creating agendas and taking minutes. I work alongside my delegates and fellow PPC members to relay to the administration and ensure that contractual rights of my colleagues are met. Our school’s PPC most recently gathered multiple building safety issues that were compiled into one large grievance filed by CTU against CPS.

What brought you to union work:

Founding members of the REAL caucus listened to my concerns and suggestion of adding pension protection to the platform. I found that my perspective and ideas were welcomed, respected, validated, as well as aligned with the platform of the REAL Caucus. I’m passionate when it comes to speaking with members regarding the bad working conditions faced by all members and the abuse from CPS. I realized it was my diligent duty that I join this caucus and step off the sidelines of being a union member and take a vital role in ensuring the changes that we need in our current union become a reality. I feel supported by the caucus and motivated to run for the Recording Secretary position in which I will secure the archives and record keeping of the union, meanwhile serving as the liaison and solidifying the relationship between CTU and CTPF (The Chicago Teachers Pension Fund).

Your hope for the future of CTU

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. There is a lack of movement in certain areas with our current representation, including improving teaching and learning conditions and our financial security. REAL will create a member-driven, democratically formed and run union in which members have a loud voice and dissenting opinions would not be shunned. REAL will also 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 have worked on creating working groups and an executive board that will be easily accessible to members and aim to keep the channels of communication open. There is much more that we need to do and I know that I am capable of being a part of this process of necessary change. I would like the opportunity to share the areas of expertise that I have accumulated in my years of teaching, organizing, structuring, and self educating. I look forward to and excited at the possibility of representing my colleagues and fellow CTU members in the vital and necessary changes needed in our current union.