First contract ratified at Queens charter

Photo by Rob Callaghan. Standing at the ballot box are Merrick teacher Christine Hernandez (left); Miles Trager, UFT coordinator of charter school services; and teacher Susan Randel. Signing in to vote is teacher Crystal Boyd.

By Cara Metz

Teachers at the Queens Village school faced harsh retaliation from administration when they joined the union, with 11 teachers summarily fired. They responded with protests, and the union filed unfair labor practice charges with the Public Employment Relations Board. The teachers were vindicated when PERB issued an injunction and educators who wanted their jobs back were rehired while others chose a settlement.

Under the new contract, history won’t be able to repeat itself. The new contract contains a due-process system with arbitration for terminations overseen by a tripartite panel with a representative from the board of trustees, a union representative and an arbitrator mutually chosen by both parties.

Christine Hernandez, who has taught for 10 years at Merrick, said that she feels “proud to be part of a journey that ended in a positive and unanimous vote.”

UFT officials said they hoped the contract marks a new chapter in relations between the school’s administration and its 32 educators.

“The relationship between the UFT and the board chair at Merrick Academy, Gerald Karikari, has improved immensely,” said Miles Trager, the union’s coordinator of charter school services and negotiations. “Over the last year as we negotiated this contract, we’ve had a number of conversations that have been positive, and we all want to see the school succeed — that’s the bottom line.”

The contract is retroactive to September 2008, when Merrick educators first joined the UFT, and runs through August 2013.

“We are incredibly relieved to have a contract,” said special education teacher Susan Randel, “and look forward to working with our administration and our board toward making next year a positive and productive school year.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Teacher on November 10, 2011, visit, for the original article.