When I first started teaching it was in a charter school, and I quickly learned what Right to Work meant, when I attempted to stand up for my students against oppressive Zero Tolerance policies and was summarily relieved of my teaching position. Fired. For standing up for students.
I applaud the members of the American Federation of Teachers Alliance for Charter Teachers and Staff (AFT-ACTS), and their newest members in Chicago both of UNO Charter Schools and Chicago Quest.
Below is a letter form the teachers of Quest, and I do hope you will take the time to support their cause.
Better teacher conditions are better learning conditions, and we are all Chicago teachers.
“Teachers on a Mission for Change”
“There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.—Indira Gandhi
“32 of the 33 educators at CICS ChicagoQuest declared that they are organizing a union at their school to strengthen the relationships between the school, teachers, school management, and other stakeholders to ensure student-centered policies” (ACTS story). For over three months, Civitas Education Partners has failed to recognize the union that our teachers and staff have formed.
On December 18th, in a powerful demonstration of unity and commitment, our staff stood together at a staff meeting, reading one line of our mission statement at a time to our administration. We wore union buttons and revealed our “beautiful people flyer,” with each union member’s picture and quote explaining why we want to unionize. We announced three demands:
1. that ChicagoQuest, Civitas and CICS recognize our union.
2. that ChicagoQuest, Civitas, and CICS bargain with us under the terms of the existing Civitas union contract, with Quest-specific addenda.
3. that CICS agree to terms for future organizing and bargaining at other CICS schools.
CICS and Civitas have disregarded all three demands. Representatives from our union, Chicago ACTS, and Stacy Beardsley (CEO of Civitas) have had three meetings to negotiate recognition and terms for bargaining. Instead of respecting our unified voice, Civitas has stalled on making forward progress.
Ms. Beardsley’s response is unreasonable, illogical, and disparaging. She says our game-like, 21st century-learning school is too unique to operate under the existing Civitas contract. Yet our sister school Quest2Learn, in New York City, is operating successfully under the UFT (United Federation of Teachers) in NYSUT (New York State United Teachers). The only concrete reason she has given that CQ can’t be in the Civitas union is a “financial” or “monetary” one (meaning she wants to continue having pay freezes instead of offering fair pay).
Chicago International Charter Schools has also disregarded our demands. On February 18th, three parents and twenty-six ChicagoQuest staff members showed unity at the CICS Board of Directors meeting and spoke to the board. The board claims they cannot respond to our demands because they are not the direct employer of CICS ChicagoQuest (deflecting the issue back to Civitas).
While Civitas has been stalling, the ChicagoQuest staff is already focused on union actions to improve school conditions for staff and students. In January we signed a petition demanding that the school create an Emergency Response Plan (since, over 6 months into the school year, our school had no instructions or drills for fires, tornados, lock-downs, etc.). The school responded in one week, supplied all classrooms with laminated plans, and we have recently held safety drills. We are emboldened by the fact that our union is already making important improvements for our students!
We are calling on all allies of our union to support us and help put pressure on Civitas and CICS to recognize our union. We requested that CICS change the date, time, and location of the April board meeting so that more stakeholders can attend (as it is difficult for parents to attend a meeting during work hours, at 4pm, and it is also during the CICS spring break, so many staff members will be out of town). They said NO to our request.
How Can I Support the CICS ChicagoQuest Union?
1. Write a public letter to CICS & Civitas demanding that they recognize our union and change the April Board Meeting for ALL CICS teachers, staff and parents (write to or call them privately, and publicize your request in any media to which you have access)
Aubrey Monks (School Director) email@example.com
Stacy Beardsley (CEO of Civitas Schools) firstname.lastname@example.org
Beth Purvis (CEO of CICS) email@example.com
2. Attend an alternative board meeting we are proposing to CICS on April 24th, 6pm, since CICS refused to move the April Board Meeting to a reasonable time and date. Location TBD (check our facebook page for updates). Encourage any colleagues to attend as well.
3. Attend the April Board Meeting even though CICS would not change the date and time.
The members of the CQ Union