Charter school activists attend chapter leader training

Photo by Miller Photography. Working on a task together are (from left) Affoussata Boundy of New York French American Charter School in Harlem, Mary Frances Hopkins of the Opportunity Charter School in Harlem, UFT staffer Richard O’Brien and Anna Lambert of the New York City HS for Architecture, Engineering and Construction Industries in the Bronx

By Rob Callaghan

For the first time, unionized charter school leaders participated in the UFT’s annual two-day long intensive training on how to become effective school-based union leaders. The event, which took place Jan. 19-20 in Rye, N.Y., brought together leaders from the union’s 14 functional chapters, including charter educators from Amber Charter School, Bronx Academy of Promise Charter School, New York French American Charter School in Harlem, Green Dot New York, Merrick Academy Queens Public Charter School, New York City Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering & Construction Industries (AECI), Opportunity Charter School and the UFT Charter School.

After UFT Director of Legislation and Political Action Paul Egan and UFT President Michael Mulgrew addressed the assembled crowd providing some overall context for the training for chapter leaders, charter school teachers broke out into smaller groups for a series of workshops focused on the specific issues facing unionized charter school leaders.

The first session, lead by UFT Vice President Leo Casey, focused on leadership development. Dr. Casey discussed the historical background of public sector unions and public education to help provide some context for the current climate of the progressive charter school movement. He reminded unionized charter school leaders of their important role in ensuring that charter schools are truly public schools. James Thindwa of the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (Chicago ACTS) led a session on engaging the local community in their schools. Charter school educators used role-plays and other activities to help better understand the perspectives of parents and other members of the community.

Sunday’s session provided attendees with an overview of the roles and responsibilities of being a school leader. The presenters showed charter leaders important ways to engage fellow teachers in their union at their schools.

Green Dot New York chapter leader Donial Rodriguez expressed how important the weekend was to connect with other unionized charters. “The training was an important opportunity to share ideas with other New York charter school colleagues and listen to their struggles,” he said.

Jacqueline Veracoechea of Merrick Academy Queens Public Charter School agreed that the training was a unique opportunity to make connections with other unionized charter leaders. “The weekend reminded us that we are not alone as unionized charter school
teachers,” she said. “We can support each other and provide advice for each other. All in all, I had a wonderful time.” This was the first chapter leader training developed specifically for charter school leaders, and more are expected.