Reagan Fletcher is a seventh-year music teacher now in her third year at the Bronx Academy of Promise Charter School, a K-4 school that organized to join the UFT in March.
Q: Why did you decide to become a charter school teacher?
A: I had an opportunity to start a music program in a brand new school and that afforded me some freedom that I didn’t have working in an established district school. For example, as my students get older, I don’t have to have a traditional band setting. I can have different ensembles that cater to my students’ interests. So essentially I can build the program around the size of the school and the community we’re in and it is very exciting.
Charter schools are a really interesting place to be right now because of all of the media and politics surrounding them. I’m kind of into the charter school debate and I think charter schools could play a vital role in education reform as long as we’re focusing on the students and not on profit.
Q: How has the union made a difference for your school?
A: Now that we have a union we know that we have each other and we can face any of our challenges together. We’re looking forward to a productive partnership with our administration and our board now that we have a collective voice. Once we have our contract, we expect to have mutual accountability so that there is accountability for our actions and our progress in helping our students. But there will also be accountability for our administration and for the policies they set that affect our children and our teachers’ professional workday.
It is exciting that we get to write our contract and to be at the beginnings of our union – to form our school’s union – even though we are also part of the UFT and AFT. Our contract doesn’t have to be as bulky as a DOE contract and we can tailor it to our school’s specific needs.
Everybody who supported the union passed a litmus test. I can now be 100 percent confident that my coworkers follow through on their commitments and have my back during anything that will come our way. I’ve never been more proud to work with anyone as I am to work with this group of teachers.
Q: What would you say to your colleagues in non-union charter schools about the union?
A: I would say that if you desire to have a voice in how your school is run, the best way to do that is by forming a union because there is strength in numbers and in people supporting each other and working together.
In union charter schools, we get to write our contracts specifically to meet our schools’ needs and our needs as teachers. Most teachers – district or charter – don’t get to do that.