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Comments by YACCS
Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Charter school roulette

Teacher Says Charter School Fired Her for Organizing to Improve Pay Scale

Published: June 28, 2006

In May, Nichole Byrne Lau received an evaluation saying that her students at the Williamsburg Charter High School were "lucky to have you as their teacher." This month, she was fired.

Ms. Byrne Lau, 33, said she had been singled out for distributing copies of the pay scale for teachers in New York City's traditional public schools and organizing her colleagues to press for better salaries and benefits. "I'm devastated," she said yesterday.

Eddie Calderon-Melendez, chief executive of the school, in Brooklyn, did not respond to several telephone messages seeking comment. Kelly Devers, a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Education, said it would investigate.

Charter schools are supervised by the state and receive public financing, but are run by outside groups. Under state law, new small charter schools are not bound by teachers' union contracts. To unionize, charter teachers must go through a multistep process and a formal vote.

Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, has taken up Ms. Byrne Lau's case, saying it illustrates the obstacles to unionizing in charter schools. Ms. Weingarten's position was central to the State Assembly's recent refusal to allow more charter schools in New York State, against the wishes of the governor and the mayor.


Ms. Byrne Lau said she had tried to organize a forum for teachers to share their grievances and push for a public and consistent pay scale to replace what she described as a hodgepodge of individually negotiated salaries, some comparable to public school pay, and some below. In fact, the school recently released a pay scale for 2006-7.

When she met with Mr. Calderon-Melendez on June 5, Ms. Byrne Lau said, he said that whoever distributed the city's teacher pay scale "obviously doesn't know how to run a school." He then told her he would not renew her contract, Ms. Byrne Lau said, but refused to say why, saying the school, an at-will employer, did not need to give a reason.

Charter schools sound like a great idea, until you hear about the games the schools play. Nest+m finally didn't have to share their school with the minority kids, but it cost them their principal. Which is the new deal many of these schools cut: you get your way, but you lose the principal.

I think that with Spizter likely to be the next governor, a lot of these rules are going to change. I think the UFT can make a major stink about this.

And before anyone goes off on an idiotic rant about teachers unions, they need to understand, without a union, teachers can be fired for any reason at any time, regardless of the stability of the school.We're talking basic worker protections here.

posted by Steve @ 2:58:00 AM

2:58:00 AM

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