Posted on Fri, Jun. 25, 2010

Teachers at W. Mount Airy charter school unionize

By Kristen A. Graham

INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

Teachers at a West Mount Airy charter school voted today to unionize.

The faculty of the Khepera Charter School will be represented by the Alliance of Chater School Employees, an affiliate of the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.

The union also represents teachers at Wakisha Charter School, Delaware Valley Charter High School and West Oak Lane Charter School, all in Philadelphia.

Most of the 67 charter schools in the city are not unionized.

"Through our union, teachers will be able to speak with a unified voice and collaborate with school leaders in decisions to improve the school," said Mari Rivers, a third-grade teacher at Khepera, which has 25 teachers and 400 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

More than 80 percent of the teachers who voted wanted to join the union, officials said.

After the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board certifies the vote, a contract will be negotiated.

"In other unionized charter schools, teachers and administrators have formed 'meet and discuss' committees which, among other things, give both parties a venue to raise concerns," said Naimah Howard, a fourth-grade teacher. "Students, teachers and administrators alike will benefit if we close the communication gap and build harmony in our educational community."

AFT Pennsylvania President Ted Kirsch said, "A pattern is emerging across the country . . . there is a growing recognition among charter school teachers that they need a voice in the educational direction of their schools, they need peer-led professional development, and they need representation to protect their professionalism."

Contact staff writer Kristen Graham at 215-854-5146 or kgraham@phillynews.com.

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