Education Opinion

Celena Rodriguez: A Student’s Perspective on the Chicago Strike

By Anthony Cody — September 14, 2012 4 min read
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Guest post by Celena Rodriguez.

As a student in CPS, I would like to share the student perspective on the ongoing Chicago strike. Some may say I don’t fully understand why CPS teachers are on strike but actually, I do.

I may not understand everything to its fullest extent but I do know that our teachers are fighting for a good cause. They want us to succeed, but how can we do that when we attend a school “like Gage Park High School”? At Gage Park, there are brilliant teachers there who dedicate and devote all of their time to us, but the environment that is offered to us isn’t what we deserve.

We are a low-income school; we have to be hot during several months during the year because there are few fans and air conditioners, and no central cooling like the other fancy schools that Rahm Emanuel keeps naming during his news conferences. Why doesn’t he name Gage Park? Why doesn’t he name Kelly, Curie, Hubbard, Hancock, Tonti, Sawyer or other neighborhood schools? Do we not count? Are we not important? Does Rahm not want us to have a good future?

When he visits schools, he often chooses charters, selective enrollment schools or the AUSL schools, but he almost never highlights regular neighborhood schools. He refers to us as “my children” and says he will not stand to see another generation fail, but to me that’s exactly what he is doing.

In fact, his CPS officials say this directly. The CPS Chief Operating Officer, Tim Cawley said in the Chicago Tribune that, “If we think there’s a chance that a building is going to be closed in the next five to 10 years, if we think it’s unlikely it’s going to continue to be a school, we’re not going to invest in that building,” Also, he said, if the building houses a school undergoing a new program like a turnaround, it’s more likely to get interior renovations, bathroom facilities or an addition.

So we don’t get what we ask for and need for ten years just because we aren’t the kind of school that he likes.

It’s part of a bigger problem--our voices as students aren’t heard. Do the things we have to say not matter? In my eyes, that’s exactly what I see. I see a man who only devotes his time to schools with money and doesn’t take students like us into consideration.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said, “This is a strike of choice,” and “This strike never should have happened.” I agree that it shouldn’t have happened. If the Mayor listened to the voices of people who work and learn in schools, it never would have.

I am concerned that I will have to make up all the missed days later. I don’t want to have to give up my vacation because the negotiations aren’t set up properly.

Why is it that our teachers are being blamed for this strike? It is not their fault that Rahm and his CEO Jean-Claude Brizard cannot sit down in a table and negotiate on the issues we all care about. The teachers have met with CPS for 7 months and neither thought teacher voices were important enough for them to bother to attend. Teachers are the only ones talking about the issues I care about and taking the negotiations seriously.

Finally as an aside, I don’t think teachers shouldn’t have to work extra for free, as no other people would do that. No one is willing to work for free, no matter their profession.

We as students must stand together with our teachers. They spent their time and money paying to get an education so they can educate us with the best education that they can offer us. But their voices are ignored too. When we stand and march with our teachers, we fight for both teachers and students voices being heard.

I’d like to close by asking the Mayor to take time out of his day to really get into our schools. Come and visit neighborhood schools for a change. We need him to see the environment in which I work hard for my education and help us make it the great educational facility that we have a human right to.

Celena Rodriguez is a 17 year old senior at Gage Park High School on Chicago’s Southside.

My name is Celena Rodriguez, I am a senior at Gage Park High School on Chicago’s South side. Growing up in this area hasn’t always been easy. I face daily challenges, it seems like no matter what I try to do there is always an obstacle in the way. I have made my way through my first 3 years of high school, and I am close to accomplishing my goal: to graduate from high school. Where I come from, there are so many struggles in kids’ lives that most people don’t understand. Although it is said that “We are all created equal” that’s not how society really works. We live in the constant experience of racism and classism. From my time here, I have learned that not everything comes easy, and it takes great determination to achieve.

Most of all, through this experience, I have learned that in order to have one’s voice heard, you yourself have to make it be heard. Growing up, I would have never thought that my opinion would be treated as important like today.

What do you think of Ms. Rodriguez’ perspective?

Celena Rodriguez’ letter and photo appear here with the permission of her parents.

The opinions expressed in Living in Dialogue are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.