Educators at two New Visions schools in the Bronx have become the latest charter schools to join the United Federation of Teachers. Educators at New Visions Charter High School for Advanced Math and Science and New Visions Charter High School for the Humanities unanimously signed union authorization cards in May to indicate their support for a union at their schools.
"Going into the process, we felt like teachers already had a voice at this school, but we felt it was important to formalize that collective voice," says Eric Benzel, a math teacher at the New Visions math and science school.
Danielle Rivellese, a reading specialist at the New Visions humanities school, underscores the importance of collaboration between the two schools and among leadership and teachers. "The process of forming a union really felt collaborative, like everything at New Visions; it was just another project to collaborate on," she said. "The union contract will help solidify our spirit of collaboration."
Before the organizing effort, the leadership of New Visions for Public Schools—the organization that manages the schools—and the boards of the two charter high schools met with the UFT to discuss the formation of a union at the schools. The result of these discussions was a neutrality agreement. School management informed the teachers and staff that the decision to form a union was up to the educators, and that no one would be subject to discrimination 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 a letter signed by the school board secretary and chair.
New Visions Charter High School for the Humanities and New Visions Charter High School for Advanced Math and Science both opened this past September, and each serves approximately 125 students in grade 9. A 10th grade will be added this September. New Visions also will open two new schools in the South Bronx in the fall.
Over the course of the next school year, the teachers and school leadership will begin the process of negotiating school-based contracts. "All of the staff is excited to take part in the contract negotiation process," Benzel says.
UFT vice president Leo Casey visited the schools in late May to welcome teachers to the union and field questions. Teachers and staff will select staff representatives from each school to serve on the negotiations committee along with Casey.
With the addition of the two New Visions schools, the UFT now represents educators at 19 charter schools across New York City. [Rob Callaghan, United Federation of Teachers]
June 14, 2012