Locked-out CPS teachers outside home of Chicago Board of Education president Miguel del Valle


Wrapped in blankets and hunched over laptops, a handful of locked-out Chicago Public Schools teachers set up their remote classrooms outside the Belmont Cragin home of Chicago Board of Education President Miguel del Valle Wednesday.

A few minutes before, they’d knocked on del Valle’s front door, but there was no answer.

“He has the power to call a meeting, he has the power to speak to the mayor. He has the mayor’s ear,” said Quetzalli Castro, a seventh-grade teacher at the nearby Prieto Math and Science Academy.

Castro was there to support about 100 CPS employees district-wide who still haven’t shown up to their schools this week as required and have been subsequently locked out of their CPS Google Classroom accounts and told they wouldn’t be paid. Teachers refusing to return to classrooms have complained the district’s plan to restart schools in the midst of a pandemic is confusing, inadequate and potentially dangerous.

Chicago Public Schools alums Genesis Rivera (left) and Diego Garcia (blue hat) stand with teachers Wednesday morning outside the Belmont Cragin home of Miguel del Valle, president of the Chicago Public Schools board, on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021.

Chicago Public Schools alums Genesis Rivera (left) and Diego Garcia (blue hat) stand with teachers Wednesday morning outside the Belmont Cragin home of Miguel del Valle, president of the Chicago Public Schools board. The gathering outside del Valle’s home brought together educators teaching remotely as well as teachers who have been locked out of their remote teaching accounts for refusing to teach in-person due to COVID-19 safety concerns.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

“I’m frustrated, I’m angry, I’m sad,” said Brian Yuhas, a locked-out special education teacher at Uplift Community High School in the Uptown neighborhood.

He cited a classroom that hasn’t been adequately cleaned and a non-working soap dispenser as some of the reasons he did not want to return to school.

“No one deserves to go in [with] a condition like that. It blows my mind to think that that was OK,” Yuhas said. He was also “very concerned” about the possibility of potentially passing the coronavirus on to his wife, who, he said, has underlying health conditions.

Locked-out teachers said Wednesday they planned to teach anyway — either by posting pre-recorded lessons on personal social media pages or livestreaming lessons on those same pages.

Linda Perales, who teaches kindergarten to 2nd grade students at Corkery Elementary School, livestreams a class outside Chicago Public Schools Board President Miguel del Valle’s home in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood Wednesday morning, Jan. 13, 2021.

Linda Perales, who teaches kindergarten to 2nd grade students at Corkery Elementary School, livestreams a class outside Chicago Public Schools Board President Miguel del Valle’s home Wednesday morning.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Tracy Royer, who teaches at Gale Community Academy in Rogers Park, was one of the teachers that didn’t return to her classroom as required this week and was locked out. But she found a way around it Wednesday.

“My teaching assistant still has access and she granted me access from my personal email,” she said. “I feel OK with it because my principal emailed me and said to help my students in whatever ways I can.”

A few moments later, Royer was leading students with “the Day of the Week” song.

Del Valle did not respond to requests for comment.

Contributing: Nader Issa

Tracy Royer, who teaches mixed pre-k students at Gale Community Academy, teaches her class outside Chicago Public Schools Board President Miguel del Valle’s home in the Cragin neighborhood, Wednesday morning, Jan. 13, 2021.

Tracy Royer usually teaches at Gale Community Academy in the Rogers Park neighborhood. But Wednesday morning, she was outside the home of Miguel del Valle, president of the Chicago Public Schools board. She’d been locked out of her remote learning account for refusing to teach in-person due to coronavirus concerns, but was able to log in anyway with the help of a teaching assistant. “I feel OK with it because my principal emailed me and said to help my students in whatever ways I can,” Royer said.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times