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Teachers at for-profit charter hand UFT a victory

Score one in the city teachers union president Michael Mulgrew’s war with Victory Schools, a for-profit charter management group. Teachers at one of Victory’s Bronx schools opted to unionize today.

Seventeen of the 19 teachers at the Bronx’s NYC Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering and Construction Industries (AECI) signed union authorization cards, the UFT announced, and the union is petitioning the school’s board to recognize it as the teachers’ bargaining agent.

AECI’s teaching staff would join those of nine other charters around the city who are represented by the city’s teachers union. The union also operates two charters, and runs a third in partnership with the charter management organization Green Dot.

Victory Schools, a for-profit management company that operates eight charters throughout the city, has been a frequent recent target for UFT pressure. Union president Michael Mulgrew recently protested the contract that another unionized charter, Merrick Academy-Queens Public Charter School, has with Victory. Teachers at that school overwhelmingly voted to unionize in 2007, but the UFT and Merrick’s board have yet to reach a contract agreement.

The union also recently called for the state to prohibit for-profit companies like Victory from running charter schools.

UPDATE: Flora Edwards, the counsel for the New York City Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering and Construction Industries, said this afternoon that the school had just been notified of the teachers’ decision to unionize. “There is a legal process to be followed, and we are following it,” she said.

Here’s the union’s full press release:

Teachers at NYC Charter High SchoolOrganize to Join the United Federation of Teachers

AECI Educators Seek Formal Voice in School Policy &
More Collaborative Work Environment

Teachers and staff at the NYC Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering and Construction Industries (AECI) in the Bronx today announced their intention to join the United Federation of Teachers as a new collective bargaining unit.

Seventeen of 19 teachers and other pedagogical staff at the school have signed union authorization cards.

In letters given to the school’s principal and board of directors, the teachers’ organizing committee called for a more formal voice in school operations to “strengthen our school community and enhance the educational experience of our students, faculty and administrators.”

The UFT filed a formal petition today with AECI’s board of trustees, and notified the state’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) that AECI teachers are seeking union recognition. If AECI’s board does not recognize the union as the bargaining representative within 30 days, the UFT can ask PERB to certify the bargaining unit on the basis of the authorization cards.

“Educators get into this profession to make a difference in students’ lives. To do their jobs effectively, they need support and professional voice,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “These teachers are dedicated to their school community and committed to creating the best learning environment that they possibly can. We are proud to welcome them into our union.”

The teachers at AECI are deeply committed to the school community and their students. They believe unionization will lead to a more positive and stable school culture for their students.

“This is an opportunity for teachers and school faculty to have a solid voice. This will create a more successful learning environment for everyone,” said AECI teacher Lissette Velazquez.

“Our principal recognizes our dedication and the work we do everyday in the classroom. But the board should also recognize how dedicated we are to the students,” said Alexandra Robinson, a guidance counselor at AECI.

AECI teacher Lynn Harrison said “the union is really a labor of love for me. I love where I am, I love the people I work with, I love the students, I have a good relationship with my principal – but I want my whole career to be here, and I think the union will help us to have a voice, and for our voice to be heard. I love the democratic aspect of a union. ”

The UFT operates two unionized charter schools, and co-operates a third in collaboration with Green Dot, a successful and labor-friendly charter school operator based in Los Angeles. The UFT also represents educators at nine other charters schools in New York City.

The New York City Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering and Construction Industries (AECI) opened in the fall of 2008, and currently serves approximately 240 students in grades 9 and 10. The school employs 17 teachers, as well as a guidance counselor, a social worker, a director of student culture and a handful of administrators.

The school’s mission is to “provide an integrated rigorous academic and career preparatory learning environment that provides students with a foundation of the necessary skills, knowledge, and practical experience to pursue a path leading to college and/or a career in the construction industry.” The school day has extended hours, and students also attend programs on the weekends and during the summer. The school is located at 296 East 140th Street in the Bronx.

AECI is run by Victory Schools, a for-profit educational management company based in New York City.

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