Tension, division rising between faculty members at Jones 

Jones teachers fear speaking out will threaten reputation under current LSC

*All interviews are kept anonymous to protect the identities of the sources

With recent controversy at Jones surrounding the Local School Council (LSC) and allegations of the LSC’s attempts at undermining Jones’ administration, many teachers have found themselves caught in the crossfire.

In a time where multiple teachers have cited tensions at Jones to be higher than ever and some are even questioning their futures at Jones, much remains up in the air as to where the true problem lies. However, many teachers are hesitant to speak out on the issues at hand, in fear of damaging their reputations.

According to one teacher who requested anonymity due to a fear of retaliation, the split climate between faculty members at Jones stems from the school’s LSC, who started their tenure in Jan. 2021. According to their website, the Jones LSC is a “13-member democratically-elected public body” and their primary powers are “budgetary oversight, approval of a school’s plan for improvement and the selection, evaluation and renewal of a principal’s contract.” More broadly put, “LSCs are a form of school governance specific to Chicago Public Schools.”

“I think that the LSC and people in the LSC have a very specific agenda,” said the teacher. “And I think that they’re trying to fit events at Jones into that agenda in a way that uses students and staff as a kind of prop for a larger end goal.”

This teacher believes the LSC’s agenda is forcing Jones faculty members to choose sides on the issue.

“The staff seems to be dividing themselves into camps and it seems that a lot of staff members are uncomfortable talking to one another openly or uncomfortable with sharing views that diverge from perhaps the loudest and most vocal views in the room.”

The two sides were explained as follows:

“I think there is a side that generally views Jones as a progressive space that, with its problems, still is one of the top schools in the city that still is doing right by the vast majority of its students,” said the teacher. “And then I think there are people that think Jones isn’t really functioning well as a school at all and that it’s constantly discriminating against its minority students in a way that puts them at a disadvantage.”

For those teachers who are in support of the school’s current administration, many worry for a future in which the LSC might overhaul the entire administration and go for a severe change in scenery at the school. Of those teachers, some have even marked concerns regarding their future at the school if that change were to occur.

“I’ve heard people talk about the changing Jones dynamic and a concern about the future, especially about the future if Dr. Powers were to leave and what the next administration could or would look like, or what that would mean for Jones,” said the same teacher. “There are definitely teachers that are concerned and thinking about leaving, and I think maybe rightfully so.”

This teacher also noted a widespread fear of speaking out in today’s societal climate and how, specifically, showing support of the current Jones administration could heavily damage one’s reputation.

“I think that if you try to present alternatives to people’s truths, you can get typecast as racist or discriminatory yourself, and that’s not a label that I want to live with. The faculty who disagree just tend to not talk to each other.”

However, some teachers agree with the views of the LSC and don’t believe the LSC poses any threat to teachers’ futures. Some of those teachers also don’t see tensions at all between faculty members or notice any fear of speaking out.

“I haven’t personally noticed anything. I don’t think the LSC has the power to do anything to teachers though,” said another teacher. “So I would say I do think there’s a bit of misinformation going around in terms of what the LSC actually has the power to do.”

On top of that, this second teacher supports the influential involvement of the LSC and believes it is overall beneficial to the school.

“I do think that, in a lot of ways, [the LSC’s] involvement is a good thing because I think there needs to be more involvement and oversight in some areas.”

The teacher also discussed their concerns about equity issues and Jones and how those issues had been handled by the school’s administration.

“I would say that there are some long-standing issues, particularly with equity amongst our student population. I think there’s room in terms of all of our curriculum to really reflect and think about the ways in which our curriculum is accessible for all students and genuinely progressive.”

However, there is still an abundance of teachers who think change shouldn’t have anything to do with the dismissal of the current administration. In fact, over the course of just one day (as of Nov. 17), 79 Jones staff members signed a letter stating that “any attempt to abruptly remove Dr. Powers from his position of our principal would cause tremendous disruption and is not in the best interest of the Jones community.” 

The letter also notes several of Dr. Powers’ accomplishments and upstanding morale as a principal. Of the teachers who signed the letter, one noted their reason for joining the petition was because of how Dr. Powers was being treated.

“We felt that the way that [Dr. Powers] has been portrayed and treated isn’t fair and that not all sides were being expressed as to how we appreciate positive things he does. You’ve got to give credit where credit is due.”

That same teacher noted their rising concern and fear of hateful accusations when coming out in support of Dr. Powers. Some teachers chose to sign anonymously in fear of retaliation and intimidation from the LSC and/or other faculty. 

“If you come out in favor of saying I support Dr. Powers being here, there are going to be some people who interpret that as, ‘then you’re a racist.’ And I think, unfortunately, that’s the jump that sometimes is made and I think that is a concern of people.”

Specifically, the teacher noted what they believed to be unethical behavior by the LSC in past meetings by calling out specific teachers and their classes.

“What is the concern was that in past meetings, it was unethical and irresponsible for [the LSC] to be addressing personnel decisions,” said the third teacher on the LSC’s addressing of specific teachers and classes. “It’s just not professional to be naming specific classes and it’s tarnishing those teacher’s names. Relationships can be destroyed.”

All-in-all, many teachers, including the anonymous teacher who signed the petition, fear a future at Jones where tensions could potentially get too out of hand and chaos might ensue.

“I just hope it doesn’t get to that point where total communication breaks down.”