Reflection on the role of CBOs Post CTU Strike

Today begins the first full week of classes in our Chicago Public Schools since the Chicago Teacher’s Union called a strike on October 17th. I cannot help but think that this week’s sunshine forecast reflects much of the optimism and relief that is felt throughout Chicago by teachers and students returning to their classrooms and regular schedules, by parents not having to scramble to find a safe, nurturing environment while they are at work supporting their families and by Mayor Lightfoot and her staff returning to the always-challenging work of managing the rest of this city’s critical issues.

But in between all these hard-working, earnest constituencies, I want to point out, are the Community Based Organizations (CBOs), the backbones of neighborhoods, trusted allies and partners to families that have known their closest CBOs for generations in some cases. These CBOs stepped up during the strike as always, and became even more relied upon during the work stoppage than on other more typical days. Because CBOs, like the Carole Robertson Center for Learning where I am the CEO, foster the well-being of children, of youth, and of families, especially when there is a call for help.

Knowing that reputation, Mayor Lightfoot did not hesitate to ask the Carole Robertson Center to host her press conference on October 16th after which we and other CBOs committed to taking in CPS students for the duration of the strike.

Fred Rogers once famously said that in any emergency situation – and this strike was a real emergency to many parents – “Look for helpers. You will always find people who are helping. ” The Carole Robertson Center for Learning was there to help every day of the strike. To calm parents’ fears. To provide children with an enriching educational environment.
The Carole Robertson Center provided stimulating learning activities, experiences that supported what they are learning in school, strong social emotional supports, a space to discuss how they were feeling as students about the strike, a safety net end of day plan after 5PM where meals were provided until families could pick up. Perhaps most importantly, Carole Robertson Center and other CBOs provided a community with a dedicated staff ready to serve and support the most important members of our City—our children.

So as we all return to our regular schedules and classroom rosters and after school pickup routines, the Carole Robertson Center continues to help children and families with high quality child care, home visiting and out of school time programming. That is our mission every single day and we were honored to have played a key part when the families and children of Chicago needed us the most.

Bela Moté
— Chief Executive Officer