California Educator

August 2014

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Page 47 of 73

"We got to clean house," Mondejar says happily, adding that the San Diego Education Association (SDEA) helped. "What we learned is, if we stick together, they can't do these things to us." The "charter glamour" rhetoric from management at a nearby nonunion charter school where Mondejar once worked was highly mis- leading, she says. "They sell it in different ways. They sell it as: 'So many people want to be in a charter school, you are changing the way that education works. You are an innovator! We're going to sell your lesson plans. We're going to have people from foreign lands come and visit you.'" Her salary went up $12,000 when she left that low-paying charter and came to Tubman and became a proud SDEA member. The education profession is worth fi ghting for, and CTA has the resources, she says. Teaching is "a beautiful profession, and it's an honorable profession, and it needs to stay beautiful, and it needs to stay honorable. I think that teachers need to continue to have their rights." Imperial County Success Teacher Sayrs Morris had worked at a teacher-driven charter school in Arizona that had a positive environment, so she knew something was wrong as soon as she arrived at Ballington Academy for the Arts and Sciences in 2012 in El Centro. "This is not normal," she told colleagues. "This is not what a typical school is like. This isn't doing a service to our students or to our com- munity or to the teachers that were there." Morris says the problem was that a corporation based 120 miles away in San Diego was running the show. "Even though we're all profession- als, we've gone to college and we have degrees, we weren't respected in our own fi eld. We were having corporate people, not educators, running a nonprofi t school and making all the decisions for us, for our stu- dents, for our community." In addition, pay and benefits we re b e l ow w h a t s u r ro u n d i n g school districts had. It was time to call CTA. "We organized, meet- ing off campus, at my husband's office and in different restaurants. We got 100 percent of the staff to sign cards!" T h e u n i o n f e v e r s p r e a d t o the only other charter school in I m p e r i a l C o u n t y, t h e I m a g i n e Academy of Arts and Sciences, which unionized as well. Con- t r a c t b a r g a i n i n g f o r t h e 5 0 educators in both new chapters of CTA has begun. Corporate people running a nonprofit school, not educators, were making all the decisions, says Sayrs Morris. Feature 46 Months of hard and exciting organizing work this year paid off in mid-July when the 750 online educators em- ployed by California Virtual Academies received word from the state that they had won the first round of their battle to unionize and join CTA. House meetings, social media cyber-organizing, and old-fashioned meet-and-greets at gatherings around the state resulted in the good news — a majority of the teachers signed petitions to unionize, the state Public Employment Relations Board verified. Now it's up to Cali- fornia Virtual Academies and the antiunion owner of one of California's largest charter schools — the for-profit K12 Inc. — to recognize the teachers union and start bargaining what would be a historic contract. The California Virtual Academies, known as CAVA and based in Simi Valley, would be the first K12-affiliated oper- ation to unionize. The aggressive, controversial K12 enrolls about 110,000 students in more than 30 states. It has suc- cessfully beat back union drives in other states and is expected to continue trying to slow down or derail the CAVA unionizing efforts here. "The CAVA teach- ers have spoken. They clearly desire to improve their profession and student learning by exercising their legal rights to unionize and collectively bargain," says CTA President Dean E. Vogel. "We expect CAVA management to respect these teachers and come to the bargaining table sooner than later." In the CAVA business model, the approximately 750 teachers across the state teach online courses from their homes as they educate about 16,000 students. K12 also makes money off of curriculum materials. Cara Bryant of Davis is on the 43-member CAVA orga- nizing committee. She likes the flexibility of staying home with her four young children that teaching online offers. She begins her ninth year of teaching science and training other CAVA teachers on Aug. 1, the start of the new school year, which she says seems to be coming earlier each year. The drive to unionize began after the student enroll- ment load kept climbing and teachers were required to do more and more administrative duties. With the increase in teacher responsibilities, students weren't getting the attention they deser ved. Teachers began talking about making changes. They de- cided the school would work better if frontline teachers had more of a say in what happened in the online classrooms. 750 ONLINE EDUCATORS IN K12-AFFILIATED COMPANY ON HISTORIC PATH TO JOINING CTA RANKS By Mike Myslinski "It's like we are a community for the fi rst time." –CARA BRYANT I'M IN

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