Members at Amber, 2 other charters ratify new contracts

by Cara Metz

Educators at the Amber Charter School in East Harlem ratified a new contract by unanimous vote on June 15.

Members and administrators from the Amber Charter School in East Harlem are all smiles after reaching agreement on their new contract.

Members and administrators from the Amber Charter School in East Harlem are all smiles after reaching agreement on their new contract.

The four-year contract delivers an increase of 1.5 percent to educators’ salaries for each year, retroactive to Sept. 1, 2014, and an increase in the employer’s contribution to the teachers’ retirement plan beginning Sept. 1, 2016.

Amber, a charter school for 15 years, was the first to join the UFT. The contract, the seventh with the UFT, covers 39 members who work as teachers, guidance counselors, teacher assistants, school aides and librarians.

School staff characterize their relationship with the administration as a partnership focused on supporting educators to meet the needs of Amber’s students.

The contract adds steps to the school’s salary schedule, which is based on years of experience and education. Currently, there are 11 steps. By the final year of the contract, 2018, there will be 14 steps, with salary topping out at $100,290.

“Teachers at Amber are very happy with our new contract,” said Chapter Leader Jennifer Antolino, who teaches 3rd grade. In addition to the economic improvements, she said, “we’ve also been able to include committees that further ensure teacher voice.”

Elizabeth Pitula, a 4th-grade teacher, added that “leadership at Amber recognizes that strong unions make for strong schools and seeks to partner with teachers in order to best serve our students.”

Two other charter schools whose members are represented by the UFT also ratified new agreements in June.

Educators at Bronx Community Charter School in Norwood unanimously ratified its second contract, a four-year agreement, on June 16. Its 47 educators will receive an 8 percent increase in the first year and a 5 percent increase in the third year.

The agreement includes an annual reopener for the school’s retirement contribution, allowing it to increase (and never decrease) its 401(k) match if the budget allows.

On June 17, members at Lefferts Gardens Charter School in Brooklyn unanimously ratified their first contract. The agreement, which covers 49 educators and staff, includes salary steps based on education and years of experience, and nine preparatory periods a week. It also includes teacher-led committees for programming and policy planning, and creates a due-process system that concludes with arbitration as its final step.

Originally published in July 10, 2015 issue of New York Teacher