Carnage At Catalyst Charter School

Last summer, I got a disturbing email from a teacher at Catalyst Charter School about a new principal, Willie Cole, who was apparently brought in by LaSalle Education at the last minute when the founding principal resigned and was, allegedly, making all sort of crazy changes.
[You can see the details in the excerpts posted below.] I wrote a post about the situation, in extremely general terms and you guys weighed in with some (but not many) ideas: Getting Things Changed, Charter-Style.

Nearly a year later, things seem to have gone from bad to worse at the school -- with six teachers reportedly fired and 11 more notified that they were being let go at the end of the year -- including the teacher who wrote last year. [Again, see below for the emails.] There's supposed to be a meeting with the principal and parents today.

Once again to you for advice -- especially those of you who may be charter school teachers or know Catalyst. Is unionization the hammer for this nail, or is there something else?

Last summer, I got a disturbing email from a teacher at Catalyst Charter School about a new principal, Willie Cole, who was apparently brought in by LaSalle Education at the last minute when the founding principal resigned and was, allegedly, making all sort of crazy changes.
[You can see the details in the excerpts posted below.] I wrote a post about the situation, in extremely general terms and you guys weighed in with some (but not many) ideas: Getting Things Changed, Charter-Style.

Nearly a year later, things seem to have gone from bad to worse at the school -- with six teachers reportedly fired and 11 more notified that they were being let go at the end of the year -- including the teacher who wrote last year. [Again, see below for the emails.] There's supposed to be a meeting with the principal and parents today.

Once again to you for advice -- especially those of you who may be charter school teachers or know Catalyst. Is unionization the hammer for this nail, or is there something else?

From July 1 2008

Our
founding Principal resigned over irreconcilable differences with
LaSalle Education Network (LEN). The Principal our Search Committee
chose turned down the job. As a result, LEN chose another woman to come
in--someone with no experience teaching or as a Principal. Since her
start two weeks ago, our staff has grown extremely miserable.
Seriously, many have been caught crying due to her oppressive
strategies.

Already we work longer hours and a longer school year than other CPS
teachers, and we're not paid as well as other Charter School teachers.

For example, our school day starts at 7:30AM and doesn't dismiss until
4:30 two days a week, we have meetings on the days when we dismiss at
3:30; so our average time of departure lingers about 5PM on a daily
basis. And we are only paid 80% of the equivalent salary given to a CPS
teacher.

Some of new Principal's "corrections" as she likes to call them include suddenly changing the teachers' last day from July 17 to July 19 (yes,
a Saturday). Making it "mandatory" that we come to school on Friday
July 18th as well as attend newly scheduled mandatory parent
information sessions on Saturday July 12 and Saturday July 19. It
doesn't matter that we may have previously scheduled vacations or plans
based on what our last day was supposed to be. She says that "as paid
employees, we have to get used to how things are now. If we have a
problem with it, we should let her know and find another job." In
addition she has changed the start date for next year from August 25 to
August 20th, and taken away a two weeks of our vacation—one each from
Christmas and Spring Break.

During a family event last Thursday that lasted until 8PM, she did not allow us to sit down.

She is making us wear the student's uniform.

She has eliminated 15 minutes of the Students' recess period effective
yesterday, providing the students only 15 minutes rather than 30
minutes of recess during an 8+ hour school day.

These are just some of the grievances and problems. My question, do we
have the right to form a teacher's union? Some teachers have told me
it’s illegal. If we can, can you recommend a starting point? Does it
simply involve gathering signatures or should we get a union organizer
involved? Please help if you can...

From Friday:

The year was not the easiest with this principal, but nonetheless
rewarding working with the students and families. Now after much
strife, layoffs, petitions, letter writing, and protests to board
members, the board has scheduled a meeting for parents only this
coming Monday.

This is the latest of 3 meetings that parents hoped to
attend, but for many reasons I presume, the meetings were closed or
have been rescheduled. It's been determined also that only parents and
board members can attend, not any staff.

Ms. Cole, our principal
informed 11 of us that she will not renew our contracts for 11, plus
fired 6 staff over the year, and has instead retained un-certified
teachers. She herself is not certified or experienced in any academic
area.

The parents are hoping to have media coverage for the
meeting on Monday. I would love to hear any words of wisdom you might
have or your take.

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