by Rob Callaghan
Teachers and staff at the first charter schools opened by New Visions for Public Schools are now under union contracts.
Staff at the two high schools in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx joined the UFT two years ago.
Faculty at New Visions Charter HS for Advanced Math and Science voted unanimously in November to approve a first-ever contract at the school. The two-year agreement, which covers the school’s 37 pedagogical staff, contains a due-process system that includes arbitration as the final step for grievances and terminations.
“I am really pleased to have a due-process system at the school because of the respect it engenders,” said Kathryn Swallow, a lead teacher at the school. “Having due process is particularly important in the field of education.”
The school’s chapter is now in the process of electing a chapter leader and delegate.
On the final day of school last year, the 45 staff at New Visions Charter HS for the Humanities ratified their own contract with similar provisions. Since that time, the chapter has elected a chapter leader and delegate.
During the 2011-12 school year, the staff at both Bronx schools signed union authorization cards to indicate their support for a union. Prior to the organizing effort, the leadership of New Visions for Public Schools and the boards of the two charter high schools signed a neutrality agreement. Under that agreement, New Visions leaders informed teachers and staff at the two schools that the decision to form a union was up to the educators and that no one would be subject to retaliation for their views on union representation.
“We share a philosophy of the importance of collaboration and community in education, and a vision of the centrality of teacher voice to educational change,” said the letter from New Vision leaders.
In addition to operating six charter schools, New Visions has created more than 100 public schools in New York City and serves as a partnership support organization for one of the DOE’s networks.
Originally published in the January 16, 2014 New York Teacher issue