Merrick Academy members OK 17-month pact

Members from Merrick Academy Charter School in Queens Village participate in a 2010 rally. (Bruce Cotler)

By Rob Callaghan

UFT-represented educators at Merrick Academy Charter School on Feb. 24 approved a new contract with better health care and stronger due-process protections.

The 30 teachers and teacher assistants at the K-6 charter school in Queens Village ratified the school’s second contract, which runs from March 1, 2014 until Aug. 21, 2016, by a unanimous vote.

Teachers will now have lower health plan co-pays and an improved salary schedule that will make the school competitive with the Department of Education’s salary scale. And in an important gain for Merrick educators, arbitration will now be the final step for grievances and terminations.

Teachers formed a UFT chapter at the school in 2010 and won a first contract in the fall of 2011 after a hard-fought struggle. When the teachers believed that the school administration was not adhering to its contractual obligations related to pay raises and tuition reimbursement, they used the grievance procedure to try to resolve the issues. The UFT finally went to court to seek redress.

Now, with the due-process system established in this agreement, such disputes will go before an independent arbitrator rather than a judge, which both parties felt worked best for the entire school community.

Chapter Leader Christine Hernandez said that through it all Merrick has remained a strong school community.

“Considering our history, the arbitrator piece is a huge win,” she said. “The improved health insurance is also an important victory. Merrick is a family school, so the better health insurance is really important to our growing families.”

Originally published in the March 27, 2014 issue of the New York Teacher