Teachers at a Cleveland Charter School Organize a Union – for Some Really Big Reasons

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Teacher Jacqueline Lehane with her first grade students.

*These kids deserve amazing teachers and teachers who want to be here and who have the support and resources they need—like we had when we were kids.*

For Jacqueline Lehane, it was the teacher demerit system at her Cleveland charter school that was the last straw. Teachers who’d been heard talking in the hallway, or whose students had been spotted with an untucked shirt, would be called out via an official email entitled *Quick Hits,* on which teachers, school and network administrators were copied. *It’s just public humiliation,* says Lehane, whose *hits* included having a messy classroom after her first graders completed an art project. To Lehane, this top-down shaming was a symbol of everything that was wrong with the school. *Once I even asked a dean, ‘do people who are higher up than you treat you the way you treat us?’*

If all you know about unions is that they are protectors of the status quo, responsible for everything that’s wrong with public education, I’m guessing you have no idea how hard it is to actually organize one. By the time Lehane and her colleagues at the University of Cleveland Preparatory School, part of the I CAN network, voted 18-4 to join the Ohio Federation of Teachers, the teachers had spent two years trying to form a union. Administrators responded, first by attempting to intimidate teachers into changing their minds, then firing the teachers who they’d identified as leading the effort. Seven teachers at the school were fired as punishment—such a clear and blatant act of retaliation that the National Labor Relations Board ordered I CAN to reinstate the teachers and give them full back pay. (I first wrote about their story here.)
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Have Elevator, Will Elevate (the Teaching Profession)

How making teaching a career no one wants will finally make our kids college and career ready…

elevatorThe year was 2014 and, alas, all was not right with the world. Income inequality in these United States had both soared and skyrocketed to levels not seen since the 1920’s, and the middle class was living just a little less large. Some pointed to the collapse of labor unions as part of the problem, but that explanation seemed too obvious. Then another, far more intriguing explanation began to gain currency, particularly among those who possessed a great deal of currency. The blame for the country’s slide lay with teachers who, coincidentally, happened to belong to one of the country’s few remaining unions. Could there be a connection? Continue reading →

Edushyster Speaks (and speaks)

Was the recent day of action to reclaim the promise of public education a flash in the pan or the start of something big? And more importantly, how will we measure the emerging movement’s effectiveness (and who can we fire when it fails to live up to its potential?) In an interview with Rob Perry of the Network for Public Education I answer these questions and plenty of others too—like what’s my favorite brand of winebox and if I could have any corporate sponsor in the world, what would it be? So press play and let me know what you think!

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