Teachers and staff at Chavez Prep Middle School voted on June 15 to join the American Federation of Teachers union. Following is a message about their choice from the board of directors of Chavez Schools.
June 15, 2017
Dear Chavez Families and Staff,
The end of the school year gives us much to reflect on and celebrate. Our Chavez seniors made us proud once again with their thesis projects, sharing insights on some of our nation’s most pressing public policy issues and proposing solutions to address them. Looking to make their own impact, our middle school scholars visited Congress, the DC City Council and competed in local and national history competitions. Supporting our scholars were our devoted Chavez faculty and staff, who deserve the summer break that awaits them.
Before we break for summer, though, we have an update from Chavez Prep Middle School that is worth sharing with our full community. On Thursday, teachers and staff at Chavez Prep held a vote to decide whether to join the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)—the national labor union that represents teachers and other education professionals in DC’s public school district and in other cities. A majority of the faculty and eligible staff at Chavez Prep voted to become members of the AFT, which, pending certification of the election by the National Labor Relations Board, would make the school the only charter school in the District of Columbia with a union. Nationally, teachers in only 10 percent of charter schools belong to unions.
As a board of directors, we respect the choice that Chavez Prep’s teachers and staff members have made to be represented by the AFT. Having the name of legendary union organizer and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez on our doors for nearly 20 years has never been a statement of support or opposition to unionization. It’s a statement of belief in the responsibility and power in all of us to improve the lives of others.
We believe teachers shape our society, so we must support and value them. We will partner with the AFT to the extent that it supports Chavez Prep’s teachers in their responsibility to our students and their families, develops them as professionals, fosters collaboration among the team and makes the school better.
Chavez Prep must continue to improve to meet the high accountability expectations in the District of Columbia. We know we cannot succeed without the support and full commitment of every individual on the school’s faculty and staff. We expect everyone who joins our school community to uphold our mission and contribute. By entering Chavez Prep after two years of campaigning, the AFT is responsible for ensuring the success of the school now, too.
Next, the Chavez Schools’ board anticipates entering a collective bargaining process with the new union at Chavez Prep that will reflect the values of the school and our network. We believe that what is good for teachers can—and must—be also good for our scholars. When there are updates of interest to the broader Chavez community, we will share them.
The first Chavez school opened in 1998 with 60 students in a grocery store basement. Our mission has always been to prepare students to succeed in competitive colleges and empower them to use public policy to create a more just, free and equal world. None of our schools would exist today without the freedom, flexibility and creativity that being a public charter school allows.
We know what distinguishes Chavez Schools from the many other schooling choices for DC families and employment options for talented educators, and we are determined to preserve those distinctions as we strive to be among the city’s highest-performing schools.
With best wishes for the summer,
Ricardo Torres & Sulee Stinson Clay, Co-Chairs, and the Board of Directors, Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy