Meet Juan Salgado–this interview from The Reader, published shortly after Chancellor Salgado was named a MacArthur Genius grant recipient for his work in community advocacy is a good place to start. Salgado is clearly connected to the city power networks and Mayor Emanuel–he also serves as a Commissioner on the Park District Board. Yesterday, I heard some grumblings about him as “anti-union” and guessed that it was related to his leadership of a couple of charter schools (and that seems to be the case–apparently he put up some resistance to one of his schools’ attempts to unionize, at least at first), but was happy to find this article from 2015 about unions and charter schools from just last year where, if you read through it, you’ll see him quoted as saying:
I sat down with Juan Salgado, the president and CEO of Instituto Del Progreso Latino, a nonprofit educational organization in Pilsen, a predominantly Latino neighborhood in Chicago, to learn what it’s been like for him to oversee two charters that have unionized with AFT. Salgado believes that unions have been tremendous assets for his schools, particularly around some of the more fraught questions of wages and benefits. Can such issues be resolved “without a union?” he asks. “Yeah. But can we move forward to actually run a school? Probably not.” The mutual buy-in at the end of the negotiating process, Salgado said, created a better spirit at his schools.
Though Salgado was explicit that he disapproved of the way the union conducted its first organizing campaign—the organizers caricatured him as an evil boss, he says, solely to advance their strategy—he still feels the resulting unions, full of organized, passionate people, are no hindrance to excellence. “Unions ask a lot of questions! And that’s OK,” he says. “Critical questioning causes reflection and makes sure you have very good answers. And they demand transparency, and transparency is important. It’s a value that we should all have.”
I love the idea of having a Chancellor who has a moral commitment to education as transformative, though, I’m reminded that Chancellor Hyman has a deep belief in that same principle. I’m a little worried that so much of the talk about education and schooling that I see in relation to Chancellor Salgado (and the Mayor) consistently connects learning and jobs/careers. Even while I understand the appeal and value of a pathway to work and pay, we have seen where that narrow conception of the value of a liberal education can lead. I am heartened by his commitment to (and experience in) citizenship preparation and GED programs and recognize those and his charter school experience as providing something of what Faculty Council asked for in regard to an “educational background,” and I hope that Chancellor Salgado will recognize that his experiences at Moraine Valley and his work experience are a long way from being a complete understanding of what we do and do well. (For example, he is quoted in the Sun-Times article as saying, ““The school that I run, 54 percent of our students get some sort of college credential before they graduate from high school. We need to do that in every school because that saves students and families money and advances them into higher education,” he said. But a credit is not a credential, and a community college is not a bridge from high school to college–it IS college. But maybe that’s just semantics. Certainly everyone in a new job deserves the chance to learn and grow and show what they can do. I look forward to seeing what our new Chancellor does and can do. Hell, I look forward to actually seeing our Chancellor in the colleges for something other than a press conference with the Mayor.
*I have to also say that I was also happy to see that the news reports were not mere restatements of the press release, but provided fuller context on situation that our new Chancellor comes into. I’m not sure if it was a fluke or part of the information provided by our current board and leadership or whether we have Donald Trump to thank for the new willingness on the part of our local press to not accept the pronouncements of City Hall as unquestionable truth, but I’m happy to see it.