12/05/2011

New York City Charter School Educators Join the Union

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Management at the Fahari Academy Charter School in Brooklyn has agreed to voluntarily recognize the United Federation of Teachers as the educators' exclusive collective bargaining representative. The agreement comes just weeks after teachers at the school organized a union.

Fahari educators at the school announced they had organized a union on Oct. 4. A majority of the educators signed union authorization cards, and the UFT filed a formal petition on their behalf for recognition with the school's board. On Nov. 2, the board agreed to voluntarily recognize the union.

Fahari Academy Charter School Staff. UFT ACTS PhotoFahari Academy Charter School Staff. Photo: UFT ACTS

The school's educators say they look forward to working with the administration to create a contract that will solidify their mutual commitment to providing the highest quality education for the students and a professional environment for the staff. Freddy Viera, an alternative education teacher, says he is eager to work with the administration to build the best learning environment for children. "Now that we have been recognized, we can focus our full attention on student achievement," he says. "I look forward to working in partnership with administration for the betterment of our students."

Special education teacher Jeffrey Embleton notes that there is a connection between teaching students problem-solving skills and taking part in the contract negotiation process. "As we teach students the skills to practice critical thinking and problem solving, it is essential that teachers also have the space to engage in constructive dialogue and be active participants in the process of taking ownership and practicing empowerment in our workplace."

While organizing their new union, the teachers and staff sent a letter to the school's board outlining their vision of a strong learning community and their commitment to Fahari's mission of instilling in its students the "core values that are critical for academic, social and professional success—perseverance, respect, independence, discipline and excellence."

"These dedicated educators want what is best for their students, and they know that having a union will help them achieve it," says UFT president Michael Mulgrew, who also is an AFT vice president. "I'm very pleased they have chosen the UFT to represent them."

Fahari currently serves more than 250 students in grades 5-7, but plans to expand through grade 12. With the addition of the school to the union, the UFT now represents 14 charter schools on 16 campuses. [Robert Callaghan, the United Federation of Teachers, Dan Gursky]

December 5, 2011