WNPR

Windham Charter School Teachers Unionize

Jun 18, 2015

Teachers at Path Academy Windham are now represented by the American Federation of Teachers, the state’s second-largest teachers union. Last week, the teachers signed a two-year agreement with the school and its management organization, a Hartford-based group called Our Piece of the Pie, one of many organizations that run charter schools in Connecticut.

Randall Prose, president of the Windham chapter of the teachers' union, says that Our Piece of the Pie never tried to stop the teachers from organizing.

“They allowed us to come in and meet with the staff, and we met with them, and the staff was 100-percent, wanted to be part of our union,” Prose said.

The agreement includes a provision that would give all teachers a raise if the entire school meets certain benchmarks. Teacher unions have been ambivalent about so-called performance-pay systems, saying it’s unclear whether it actually helps students learn better.

Christopher Leone, chief academic officer of Our Piece of the Pie, said that the performance clause was included to make sure everyone was on board with the school’s vision. He says this agreement is an example of unions and charter schools seeing past differences, when these groups have been at odds with each other for years.

“What we’re saying is, adults can be adults for the benefit of children and collaborate for education," Leone said. "I think that’s what we ask of our youth, to work together to move forward, and that’s what we are setting an example of doing.”

Under the agreement, teachers also have additional protection against being fired. Traditionally that's not been the case in Connecticut charter schools.