Dozens of teachers from Morgan Park High School wearing the now ubiquitous red shirts demonstrated in front of the 19th Ward Office Tuesday morning as the second day of Chicago's teachers strike carried on.
They were there to express their concerns about the city's public school system as well as to demand a response about a recent letter Ald. Matt O'Shea and 32 other aldermen sent to union president Karen Lewis over the weekend.
"We are disappointed that you signed this letter," said Ian Randolph, a Spanish teacher and the union delegate for .
The letter in question urged Lewis to keep children in school during the contract talks and was not sent to Chicago Public Schools or the board's leaders.
"I did not intend for it to be a shot at teachers, I am 100 percent supportive of teachers," O'Shea told a group of about one dozen teachers who were invited into his offices for a meeting.
O'Shea stressed his connection to public school teachers telling the group that his wife and many family members are also CPS educators.
"I 100 percent support the organized labor families of our community, frankly it's the backbone of our community," he said. "What I was saying in that letter was please stay at the table, I know you're close and while you negotiate a fair contract for teachers keep the kids in their seats. I was wrong to not think that it was going to balloon into this and for that I am sorry."
James Fitzgerald, a social studies teacher at Morgan Park, took issue with a line in the letter that focused on the importance of continuing athletic games because for many students sports are their path to college scholarships.
He named a host of top schools that Morgan Park students have been accepted to thanks to their academic performance.
"If there are students that are going to be in pursuit of academic scholarships they need to be sure they are in classrooms that have smaller class sizes, material available to them and teachers that are experienced and continue to be rewarded for continuing there own education," Fitzgerald said before O'Shea arrived.
The teachers also brought up the physical conditions of the school which is currently undergoing a $19 million renovation. A lack of air conditioning has resulted in several students and staff members being taken out by ambulance after being affected by the heat.
O'Shea cited a laundry list of 19th Ward schools that are in need of major renovations and relief from overcrowding. It is an issue and problem he said plans to tackle.
"That's where I want dollars to go, not to charter schools," O'Shea said.
O'Shea won major applause when he said he will continue to work to make the 19th Ward a charter school free zone.
Among other problems Morgan Park teachers say they have are overcrowded classrooms and having to make due with a counselor and nurse available only a few days a week.