Bronx Charter’s Educators Want UFT Representation

Educators at the Kingsbridge Innovative Design Charter School on Feb. 4 publicly announced that they have organized a union with the UFT, citing their desire for greater stability, collective-bargaining rights and a union contract that “will allow us to recruit and retain excellent teachers.”

An overwhelming majority of teachers and other pedagogical staff at the Bronx school have signed union authorization cards. The school’s board now has 30 days to voluntarily recognize their union or the UFT can ask the Public Employment Relations Board to certify it on the basis of the cards.“By forming a union, these teachers have shown that they are committed to having a collective voice in creating a great learning environment for their students,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “We are proud to welcome them into the UFT.”

Teachers at the school began to organize in secret in January. They made their intentions known in a letter sent on Feb. 4 to both the school’s executive director, Julio Irving Cotto, and the chair of its board, John Torres, in which they invoked “the principles of lifelong learning, reciprocal trust, responsibility, and civic development” and their school’s mission in explaining their decision.

“Our school’s mission includes a commitment to creating an environment where teachers are ‘empowered to define and maintain a positive school culture, curriculum, and finances,’” they wrote. “By forming a union, we are seeking to fully fulfill our school’s goals.”

Teachers also cited job security as a major concern.

“The instability we have experienced makes it difficult for me to come to work and feel confident every day,” said 1st-grade teacher Deniz Akiska. “By creating a union, I will feel secure in my position, which will allow me to focus on what is most important — the students.”

With the addition of Kingsbridge Innovative Design Charter School, the UFT now represents 13 unionized charter schools on 16 campuses, two of which it operates directly and a third it co-operates with Green Dot, a union-friendly charter-school management company.

Located in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx, the school currently serves approximately 150 students in kindergarten and 1st grade, and will eventually serve grades K-7.

This article originally appeared in The New York Teacher on February 17th, 2010, visit UFT.org for the full article.