‘Promise’ charter members ratify first UFT contract

By Cara Metz

Photo by Rob Callaghan Before ratifying their contract, educators at Bronx Academy of Promise — (from left) Reagan Fletcher, Lisa Rodgers, Jennilee De Hoyos and Danielle Viggano — read it over.

Reaching a key milestone, educators at the Bronx Academy of Promise, a charter school located in the Morrisania neighborhood, ratified their first union contract on Oct. 12.

The contract, which went into effect immediately, covers the 28 teachers and five teachers’ assistants at the kindergarten-through-grade-4 school.

Teachers first contacted the union because they wanted greater job security and to feel freer to speak up about issues that arise at the school. They went public with their campaign in March 2010 after every teacher had signed a union card and were granted voluntary recognition in April; negotiations began in August. The contract expires in June 2012.

Educators, who in the course of the union drive had already gained an increase in their salaries, saw an additional 2.6 percent raise and also gained a due process system with arbitration as the final step for grievances and terminations.

“I wanted a union mainly for job security and to have a voice in the school,” said Reagan Fletcher, a fourth-year music teacher. “The atmosphere before we had a contract was distrustful between teachers, administrators and the board, and we didn’t feel comfortable to advocate for our students without fearing for our jobs.”

Since joining the union, Fletcher says, “we have a better relationship with our board and administration. We were able to get on the committee to hire the new principal, which they never would have considered before we went union.”

The school is in the process of developing a teacher evaluation system, which will be negotiated in a labor-management committee composed of teachers, a UFT representative and the school’s principal. It will be used beginning in the 2012-2013 school year after ratification by union members and the school’s board of trustees.

Looking ahead, Bronx Academy of Promise educators also hope to achieve the same kind of salary steps that teachers in district schools have as they earn more higher education credits and have more years on the job.

“That’s our big issue, salary steps, because we want to have a home at this new school and a future,” Fletcher said.

This article originally appeared in The New York Teacher on October 27th, 2011, visit UFT.org, for the original article.