Closing the deal: Merrick, BAOP reach first contracts, while others enter into new contracts

Photo by Rob Callaghan. Standing at the ballot box are Merrick teacher Christine Hernandez (left); Miles Trager, UFT coordinator of charter school services; and teacher Susan Randel. Signing in to vote is teacher Crystal Boyd.

By Rob Callaghan

As the unionized charter school movement continues to grow, schools throughout the city have reached agreements on new contracts.

After a long and hard-fought union campaign, teachers at Merrick Academy Charter School ratified their first contract on Nov 3 by a unanimous vote. The contract provides teachers with a pay increase and tuition reimbursement, but most important to educators was the improved ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������just cause����� protections outlined in the agreement.

“Four years ago, some of the staff, went ahead and reached out to the UFT. Forgetting money and salary, just being able to have due process is the biggest win for us right now,” said Christine Hernandez, who has taught for 10 years at Merrick.

“We are incredibly relieved to have a contract,” said special education teacher Susan Randel, “and look forward to working with our administration and our board toward making next year a positive and productive school year.”

The contract is retroactive to September 2008, when Merrick educators first joined the UFT, and runs through August 2013.

Bronx Academy of Promise (BAOP), a kindergarden-through-grade-4 charter school located in the Morrisania neighborhood, also just ratified its first contract. The contract provided educators with a 2.6 percent salary increase and created an improved due process procedure for grievances and terminations. The contract went into effect immediately and covers 28 teachers and five teaching assistants.

Since joining the union, Reagan Fletcher, a seventh-year music teacher said, �������we have a better relationship with our board and administration. We were able to get on the committee to hire the new principal, which they never would have considered before we went union.���������

Currently, the school is developing a teacher evaluation system, which will be negotiated in a labor-management committee composed of educators, a UFT representative, and the school’s principal.

In other contracts news, Amber Charter School, a ten-year-old charter school in East Harlem, approved a new two-year contract. The contract includes a 10 percent raise for educators, along with a bonus system, and an improved due process structure.

At Green Dot New York, a high-performing charter school in the Bronx, teachers recently approved a renewal of their innovative contract signed in 2009. The new two-year contract provides a 6 percent raise over the life of the contract and includes a bonus system for retaining employees. Green Dot, like BAOP, will be implementing a teacher evaluation system in the 2012-2013 school year.

Two UFT-represented charter schools, Opportunity Charter School and New York City Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering and Construction Industries’ (AECI), are currently in the midst of negotiations for their first contracts.

Commenting on her experience on the negotiation committee at AECI, a third-year tenth-grade English teacher, Lissette Velazquez, said, �������������������������Being on the negotiating committee at my school has shown me what the union does, and how hard they will fight to make sure that teachers, who deal with so much, are given the proper support to do their jobs.”