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Teachers at a young Brooklyn charter school vote to unionize

Yet another charter school is on the path to unionization after a majority of its teachers voted to seek representation from the United Federation of Teachers.

Teachers at Fahari Academy Charter School, a third-year school in Crown Heights that currently serves fifth through seventh grades, announced the vote in a press release today. They said they hoped the decision would “help foster a positive school culture.”

“The union is vital for Fahari,” teacher Jeffrey Embleton said in the release. “Having union recognition will give us the voice we need to best serve our students.”

Fahari had its charter authorized by the Department of Education in 2008 and opened its doors in 2009. In its inaugural report card, released last month, the school received a D, including an F on the student progress component. In April, the New York Post reported that the school was trying to expel a student with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder for offenses such as name-calling and roughhousing.

The staff notified the school’s executive director, Catina Venning, of their vote in a letter today. At the same time, the UFT has begun the legal process that will allow the union to negotiate as a third-party bargaining unit for a contract for Fahari teachers. UFT officials filed a petition with the school’s board and has informed the Public Employment Relations Board, giving Fahari’s management 30 days to recognize the union voluntarily before PERB steps in to certify the teachers’ vote.

UPDATE: Venning did not initially respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment, but Anna Graham Hunter, co-chair of the school’s Board of Trustees, said in an email that the management was open to discussing the teachers’ desire to organize.

“We fully respect the right of our teachers to organize,” Hunter wrote. “What we must all remember is that our first priority is to give students a first rate education — that means that any agreement we come to must allow Fahari the flexibility to fulfill its core mission and the promise we made to families to prepare their children to succeed at every grade level, college and beyond.”

The road for Fahari teachers to have a contract will likely take time.

Half of the 14 unionized charter schools retained traditional DOE contracts because they were converted from a district school. But for many of the other seven, the process has taken longer; up to three years in the case of Merrick Academy, according to Leo Casey, a UFT vice president.

Casey added that three schools are in the final stages of negotiation for a first contract and said a fourth, Green Dot Charter School, will renew its contract soon.