The first charter school established in New York City is going union. Twenty-seven out of 28 pedagogues at Sisulu-Walker Charter School of Harlem signed union authorization cards with the UFT and, on Oct. 21, gave letters to the school’s principal and board of trustees explaining their decision.
“We took this step to ensure that classroom teachers will have a real, professional voice in the decisions that affect the quality of our students’ education,” said teacher Shaquira De La Cruz.
In their letter, educators at Sisulu-Walker expressed their “sincere hope” that they would react positively to the educators’ decision, “acknowledging the benefits of a strong and stable staff and committing to work with us through the remaining steps of this process.”
That same day, the UFT filed a formal petition with the board of trustees and notified the state Public Employment Relations Board that Sisulu-Walker teachers are seeking union recognition.
If the board does not recognize the union as the bargaining representative within 30 days, the UFT can ask PERB to certify the bargaining unit on the basis of the authorization cards.
Teacher Doris Fleming said she wanted to join the UFT in order to “guarantee the collaborative working conditions that we need to make Sisulu-Walker an excellent learning environment for the kids.”
The school, which opend in the fall of 1999, currently serves 250 K-5 students.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew said, “We are proud to welcome these teachers into the UFT,” where they are joining the union’s growing charter school chapter, which represents 14 schools throughout the city.
“Teachers get into this profession because they care about giving students an excellent education,” Mulgrew said. “By taking this step, the Sisulu-Walker teachers have shown that they are committed to creating the best learning environment that they possibly can for their students.”
Sisulu-Walker is run by Victory Schools, a for-profit educational management company based in New York City that operates nine charter schools throughout the area.