West Teachers Participate in National Union Walk-In


By Grace Geraghty


Teachers, administrators, parents, and students from the Niles West community participated in a nationally-sponsored union walk-in at school the morning of Thursday, Oct. 6 in the student commons after the event was moved inside because of rain.

The event, sponsored by AROS (Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools), a nation-wide organization, sought to promote public education and the importance of keeping public schools free from corporatization.

Michelle Hettinger, English teacher and editor of the union newsletter, was impressed by the solidarity our community showed for other public school systems that are struggling.

“It was a nice display of solidarity by teachers, administrators, parents, students. We are really fortunate to be in the district in which we are, but there are a lot of schools that are struggling,” she said.

Steve Grossman, who spoke at the event, underlined the importance of keeping good public education available for everyone, citing trends like profit-driven charter schools and testing companies.

“Public education, which is sort of the foundation of our democracy, is under attack in recent years. It’s very popular right now for people to attack schools. This group, AROS, is going back to the idea of having good, free, public, neighborhood schools in every neighborhood, where every child lives and fighting against some of these trends,” he said.

Union president Tim Miller emphasized the importance of protecting public school systems from privatization by profit-driven companies and ideas.

“The entire event, sponsored by AROS, was really to highlight the fact that public schools are for everybody,” he said. “They are trying to reclaim public schools against the corporatization, whether that’s through testing, over-testing, or corporatization of curriculum.”

Miller spoke about the situation at Niles West, and how it could serve as a possible model for other school districts.

“Fortunately, we have a great situation here. We’re properly funded, teachers have materials they need, we have the support of the community. So, we aren’t feeling as mush here as we are in other places. The reality is that public schools work, and can work, because they;re built for everybody,” Miller said.

Vice president of student government, David Hochberg, spoke at the walk-in to represent the student body.

“Basically, I just spoke out for public schooling and talked about why it’s a good thing,” he said. “The whole point was to walk in solidarity with other public school systems in the nation, to show that public school system are not a bad thing, and they can turn out to be good if they are properly funded, with good administration, good teachers, and good parents who are willing to put time and effort into bettering the school and the community.”

The importance of good community relations was echoed throughout the event. Grossman reminded the community that Niles West and district 219 are a prime example of a successful public school district, one that is able to provide its students with a spread of other electives because these relationships.

“We represent great public schools. We represent where public education is working for everybody. We have a great community, we have great relations between the community and the schools, and our schools offer more than just great core curriculum; we also offer a robust electives program, so any student can follow any interest they have,” he said. “We should be the model of how public schools should be running elsewhere. Rather than trying to change public schools into something else, like a corporate run school, every kid in their community should have the same opportunities that studentsĀ have at Niles West.”