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Saint HOPE Charter School Teachers Look To Unionize

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Teachers at a well-known charter school system in Sacramento founded by former mayor Kevin Johnson want to unionize.

A majority of teachers, psychologists, and school counselors with Saint HOPE Public Schools have signed a petition to join the Sacramento City Teachers Association.

Union President Nikki Milevski says once those signatures are verified, the contract negotiations can begin.

She says this will give teachers a voice, and force the school system to be more transparent.

"We'll find a great improvement to the culture and learning environment of the school, the professionalism and support the teachers feel there, and the student learning," Milevski says.

Some teachers and counselors in the system say they were not consulted prior to the petition, and don't feel its the right move.

"...Unionizing through an outside organization will diminish our ability to collaborate with principals and management across the system, weaken incentives for teacher professionalization, and ultimately reduce our ability to meet the unique needs of our students and community," said Nicole Bibel, a St. Hope Public Schools teacher, in a press release on behalf of the group.

John Borsos with the California Teachers Association says the petition was open to all affected employees, and in the end a "super majority" of signatures was collected, well over the 50 percent plus one needed.

Michelle Rhee is the chair of the Saint HOPE School Board. The wife of former mayor Kevin Johnson is well-known for her anti-union views, and a long-time target of teacher unions when she headed the Washington D.C. School District.

Saint HOPE says it recognizes improvements can be made to ensure staff feels valued and supported. However, the organizations says any form of unionization may challenge the environment and culture of success they have built.

Saint HOPE operates five schools and says it serves nearly 2,000 students.

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