KIPP UNIONIZATION: A Teacher Changes Her Mind
Last week, Kashi Nelson realized that she’d made a mistake supporting unionization for herself and the other teachers at KIPP AMP.
On Thursday, she formally notified the union that she was withdrawing her support.
“I just don’t see how having the union be a part of our everyday life will help,” she said in a telephone interview on Sunday afternoon.
A veteran teacher who is new to charter education, Nelson had been one of those who had gone along with the unionization effort (A Veteran Educator's Charter School Experience).
Nelson’s reversal raises the possibility that the much-publicized effort to organize the Brooklyn charter school may fizzle.
Whether the school will rebound, with or without unionization, remains unknown.
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It was several things changed Nelson’s mind, rather than any single event:
Over the past few weeks, administrators cracked down on teachers for not arriving at school on time.
In response, teachers insisted on having an official clock installed at the school.
Things were getting more formalized, Nelson saw.
The weekly school newsletter stopped including praise for teachers’ efforts.
Nelson frequently received texts and emails from upset colleagues.
The rumor mill said that another teacher – a part-time musician – was being fired.
“It got ugly,” she said. “It was really bad.”
Also, the organizing effort also took an enormous amount of time.
“I felt like I was constantly doing union activities,” she said, citing meetings with parents, offsite meetings with other teachers, and requests to rally her colleagues. “It was all getting to be so much.”
Along the way, it became clear that KIPP co-founder Dave Levin hadn’t known exactly what was going on at the school.
It was hard to believe at the time, but Nelson discovered that her efforts to make sure he was informed hadn’t succeeded. She remembered that the teachers had decided against going directly to Levin before making their move.
“We never did that, really. We never spoke to Levin.” It was a moment of uncharacteristic uncertainty. “Where I come from, you don’t just walk up to your superintendent and say, “We have a problem.”
Before making her decision, Nelson went for a long walk and talked to her family.
On Thursday, she notified the union and the leaders of the pro-union group of teachers.
On Friday, she met with fellow teachers after school and discussed her change of heart.
Nelson doesn’t know what will happen if the unionization process continues, or whether the teachers who vote for unionization will even be back at the school next year.
It’s possible that the school could end up unionized but the teachers who voted to change it would not be there.
It’s also possible that the teachers could, after meeting with Levin, decided to follow through and organize the school.
Either way, Nelson feels like she did the right thing by changing course.
“I feel good. I’m disappointed in my actions. I did kind of jump on the bandwagon out of frustration. But I came to New York to be part of school reform, and I still believe that can happen here.”
The PERB meeting is on Thursday.