California Educator

August 2014

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— te a c h e rs , co u n s e l o rs , psychologists, education support professionals — had to work longer hours f o r l e s s p ay. T h e s a l a r y schedule was eliminated. Te a c h e r t u r n o v e r r a t e s soared, which disrupted student learning. So last year, she joined the orga- nizing committee. This year, the schools are bargaining their first contract after the Public Employment Relations Board certified in November 2013 that a majority of teachers had signed petitions to unionize. The victory is restoring Fenn's voice in how her school runs, she says, and her faith in the power of the union movement. Colleague Carrie Blanche, another Alameda organizing team member, agrees. "We came to the conclusion that the only way to reclaim democratic decision-making — the core of our model — and to rebuild the culture of our school, was to organize the union." Fenn knows about unions. Her father was a postal worker union activist who handled grievances, but she didn't feel connected to the movement as she does now. "When I came to CTA meetings, I felt they listened and understood what we needed and why it was important." In San Jose July 11-13, she took part in an energizing CTA charter mobilizing training involving more than 80 people, including charter school teachers, CTA staff, and five members of the CTA Board of Directors. (Watch pas- sionate video clips of solidarity from Fenn and other charter teachers at the San Jose training, along with Bay Area CTA Board member Terri Jackson, at Two Los Angeles Wins Two recent organizing efforts in Los Angeles led to a pair of charter school victories as teachers joined the ranks of the 35,000-member United Teachers Los Angeles. I n m i d - J u ly, 5 5 m e m b e rs o f t h e newly unionized Ivy Academia School in the San Fernando Valley ratified a first contract that means raises of about 15 percent for most, putting them on a par with other UTLA members. Class size caps and layoff lan- guage were also won. There will be a mentor teaching program and binding arbitration of griev- ances, and teacher evaluations w i l l n o t b e b a s e d o n s t u d e n t test scores. Says Katrina Daneshmand, an Ivy high school science teacher: "We now have a voice, a 'just cause' con- tract with equal pay, and a way to help our students to be truly successful." Ivy educators organized together with parents of their 1,000 students, held rallies and did informational picketing to forge their victory. Another recent win was at the Apple Academy Public Charter Schools, where about 16 teachers serve K-5 students at two campuses. In May, these teachers submitted a statement to the Apple Academy board of directors declaring their intention to unionize to ensure "the quality of our stu- dents' education, provisions for a safe environment, full transparency and accountability from our leadership team and Board of Directors, fair and just practices, and equity in decision-making." Teacher Karla Tobar declared in the statement: "I want a union at Apple Academy because I believe in collective action to actively organize, educate, mobilize, empower and transform communities. It takes a village to educate a child and it's important we all have a voice in the daily learning conditions of our students." Apple colleague Andrea Clawson added: "To be an even stronger and more effective charter school, we need to take this step. A union that gives teachers a voice and a stronger involvement in the school is a positive step." San Diego Triumph Clarisa Mondejar remembers too well how the principal at her Harriet Tubman Village Charter School made life miserable for educators with a campaign of disrespect and harassment. One teacher was required to write out by hand 15 full-length lesson plans every weekend, due on Monday. When she missed one deadline due to a health emergency, she was fired the next day, Mondejar recalls. Tubman became unionized about three years ago, so teachers could fight back this year with- out the fear of retaliation that hangs over many nonunion charters. After Mondejar joined several colleagues in speaking out in March at the San Diego Unified school board meeting about the abuses, the board launched an investiga- tion. The principal was dismissed May 29, and the nonelected board of Tubman was ousted. Charter educators, from left, Lynn Kameny, Molly Fenn and Carrie Blanche of the Alameda Community Learning Center Schools, Inc., attend a CTA Organizing Academy in San Jose. "Solidarity has to go beyond our district and beyond our schools to charter schools, because our fates are all linked," says Rickeena Boyd, a San Diego teacher and charter organizer. P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y S C O T T B U S C H M A N 45 V O L U M E 1 9 I S S U E 1

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