An overwhelming majority of employees at Merrick Academy Charter School in Queens petitioned to join the UFT and bargain collectively in November. Just this past week, the UFT and Merrick’s board of trustees agreed to the composition of the school’s bargaining unit. And the Public Employment Relations Board determined that sufficient interest was demonstrated through representation cards to certify unionization. All this sets the stage for contract negotiations, which we anticipate will be cooperative and expeditious.
For years, Merrick’s educators attempted to work collaboratively with the school’s administration. Despite these efforts, less than ideal working conditions persisted and questionable educational practices were mandated. In a recent letter from the teachers’ leadership committee to their colleagues, they reiterated their goals and intentions:
From day one, we’ve set out to form a union to make Merrick a more professional and fairer place to work. We know that with a stronger voice in how the school operates, our practices will be better and our students will achieve. As we look forward to Merrick’s charter renewal, it will be critical to ensure that we, as professional educators, lead the way.
To their credit, Merrick’s teachers also hammered another chink in the once-impenetrable armor of market-based school reform. If they merely had been “rational actors” in an education marketplace, they would have voted with their feet and sought work elsewhere. Instead, they chose to stay, activate their rights, and gain more ownership over their practice.
Mindful of the accountability that ticks away with any time-limited charter (and with echoes of Sol Stern’s recent challenge to the incentivists), Merrick’s educators aim to improve their school’s instruction. The authority invested with Merrick’s educators through collective bargaining will contribute their professional judgment to the school’s practices, policies, curriculum, and pedagogy. As “market failures” go, Merrick Academy’s entire family of students, parents, teachers, leaders, and supporters should consider this one a success.