Last Thursday, in a highly misguided decision to insert a third party between themselves and their administrators, the teachers and instructional staff of the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School’s Prep Campus voted 31 to 2 to form the District of Columbia Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff through the American Federation of Teachers. It is the first charter school in the District of Columbia to approve a union, and follows the failed effort in April to bring the same group to Paul PCS. The move fulfills the call last December by Scott Pearson, the executive director of the DC Public Charter School Board, to add a unionized charter school to our city as a way of increasing the diversity of his portfolio.
The WAMU’s Kate McGee quotes science teacher Christian Herr’s reaction to the vote:
“We’re excited for the opportunity to work alongside our school board and our principal to make a school that we’re really proud of into the envy of the district. . . We’ve ready to get to work on a contract that makes our school an even better place to teach and learn.”
But the board of directors over the middle school is not so thrilled. From its statement:
“Chavez Prep must continue to improve to meet the high accountability expectations in the District of Columbia. We know we cannot succeed without the support and full commitment of every individual on the school’s faculty and staff. We expect everyone who joins our school community to uphold our mission and contribute. By entering Chavez Prep after two years of campaigning, the AFT is responsible for ensuring the success of the school now, too.
Next, the Chavez School’s board anticipates entering a collective bargaining process with the new union at Chavez Prep that will reflect the values of the school and our network. We believe that what is good for teachers can-and must-be also good for our scholars. When there are updates of interest to the broader Chavez community we will share them.
The first Chavez school opened in 1998 with 60 students in a grocery store basement. Our mission has always been to prepare students to succeed in competitive colleges and empower them to use public policy to create a more just, free and equal world. None of our schools would exist today without the freedom, flexibility and creativity that being a public charter school allows.
We know what distinguishes Chavez Schools from many other schooling choices for DC families and employment options for talented educators, and we are determined to preserve those distinctions as we strive to be among the city’s highest-performing schools.”
Perhaps preserving those distinctions will result in the closing of this campus.