The following open letter to elected officials and community leaders was signed by over 200 Merrick Academy teachers, parents and community members.
Merrick Academy Charter School is in a state of crisis which threatens the education of its students and the very future of the school. In the recent past, a Board member was convicted of stealing half a million dollars of public money, the founding principal suddenly departed, and now nearly one-third of the teaching staff have been summarily and illegally fired for exercising their rights to unionize and bargain collectively. The scandals caused by the Board’s behavior are undermining the hard work of the staff, students and destroying the school.
We believe that the current Board at Merrick is now made up of individuals who have shown that they are unprepared and unwilling to make sound educational decisions on behalf of the school and its students. Perhaps nothing illustrates this more than the Board’s firing of nearly a third of the school’s teaching staff, including many of the best and most experienced teachers from a staff that has consistently obtained excellent test scores for the school’s students. The firings were done by Fed Ex notices sent to teachers’ homes, and none included even the most minimal explanation for their abrupt dismissal.
Why, one might ask, would a Board make such an educationally inexplicable and indefensible decision? For one reason and one reason only: these same dedicated teachers had been exercising their right to unionize and bargain collectively, and have been negotiating with the Merrick Board for two years to protect their rights at work with a union contract.
All of the educators who were fired were union supporters, and included members of the contract negotiating committee and the union’s chapter leader. This is a flagrant violation of the New York State Fair Employment Act (also known as the ‘Taylor Law’), and of the New York State Education Law, all of which guarantee the right of teachers to unionize, bargain collectively and participate in a union.
On July 23rd, the United Federation of Teachers filed a request that the Public Employment Relations Board again intervene, this time with an order enforceable in court that will compel the Merrick board to reinstate these teachers with all back pay and benefits that are due them.
The students, staff and families of the Merrick Academy Charter School have every right to expect that the Board act faithfully on the trust given to them by the State of New York. It must follow the law, it must act in the best interests of the school by re-hiring without delay the fired teachers and teaching assistants, and it must conclude in good faith the negotiation of a collective bargaining agreement they have resisted for two years. Given the history of this Board, however, we find no reason to believe that they will do so. As a result of the pattern of illegal and irresponsible decision-making on the part of this Board, we call for their resignation and replacement with new members who are prepared to act in accordance with the school’s mission and charter.
If the current Board remains in place and continue to make the educationally indefensible decisions which they have carried out over the past year, we fear that Merrick will not survive. We challenge you to stand on the side of fairness and justice and to join Merrick parents, students, and teachers in the effort to ensure that the current leadership of Merrick Academy Charter School no longer abuses their power in ways which hurt the academic success of the school’s students.
The Merrick Academy Charter School Community