Teachers’ Strike: First Day at Payton High

As you may know, I am a Finance Project Manager at Chicago Public Schools.   My day-to-day duties include managing projects which involve the financial oversight of the district.  This includes financial reporting, district asset monitoring, creation of reference materials and more.  As you can imagine, I was more than a little worried about being deployed at a high school for the duration of the Chicago Teachers’ Union strike.  We were notified of the District’s contingency plan (aptly named “ChildrenFirst”) one week prior to the strike.  Essentially, the plan is to keep approximately 140 schools open in order to meet three primary objectives:

  • To provide nutrition to students
  • To provide a safe haven for students
  • To provide some activities for students


Before reporting for duty on Monday, September 10th, (even the district CFO was assigned), we were required to attend a planning meeting the previous Friday.   I arrived at Payton on 4pm that Friday and was astounded at what I saw.  There was a hall full of students wishing each other farewell and happily chatting away.  I had the feeling that this was the typical atmosphere at the school.  A student confirmed this for me and one staff member told me that Payton is the best school she has ever supported.  The students are well mannered, friendly and supportive of each other.  They are especially accepting of those who have special needs (including those who are visually impaired or autistic).  I’ll tell you more about my conversation with her in another post.  She’s a true gem who cares about students and Chicago Public Schools as an organization.


A group of approximately 30 CPS staff reported for duty at Payton High School on Monday, September 10th.  There was a mixed group of staff from around CPS including Central Office Administration, security, bus aides, lunchroom attendants and more.   As we signed-in outside the stadium door, the High School Principal, Mr. Devine, greeted each of us.  We then entered the auditorium where Devine addressed the group and laid out the plans for the upcoming days of the teachers’ strike.  You could feel the tension and uncertainty amongst the group but as Mr. Devine continued to speak, the atmosphere in the room changed.   He had an air of calm and sure leadership which instilled confidence in the group.


I think we all expected a hectic morning of loud protesters and media presence but it was quite different.  The teachers protesting in front of the school doors were relatively quiet and friendly.  I even received a few smiles as I walked around the group to enter the building.  The number of students arriving that first day was also less than expected as well.  Payton has over 800 students enrolled but as of day 3, we have had less than 40 students on-site on a single day.  Students and their parents can select from a group of schools they are eligible to attend.  This is primarily based on location.  So any school open as part of ChildrenFirst is not only open to the regularly enrolled students at that school but to neighborhood students as well.

Favorite Quote: “The private schools get to hand pick their kids and have parents involved in their child’s education. Those two things make your comparison [between private and public schools] not even apples and oranges, but more like apples and Mitsubishis.”

Tomorrow …Day 2 and 3:  My Days in the Library



  I am a strong believer in individual accountability and collective action.  When not reading, working or blogging, I’m supporting my favorite charities: Teen Living Programs where I am a volunteer and Executive Board member and YWCA Chicago where I am an Associate Board Member. I am passionate about causes related to supporting youth, women and families. Particularly in the areas of education, social services and housing. I can be reached at sherryclayton78@gmail.com if you would like to know more about my charities or the blog.


Categories: Professional Development

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