"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, March 28, 2024

KIPP St. Louis Teachers Still Seeking Fair Contract

 From the St. Louis/Southern Illiois Labor Tribune:


St. Louis – Still fighting for a first contract, educators from KIPP St. Louis High School, represented by American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 420, attempted to deliver a petition Feb. 22 to district leaders outlining their key concerns as contract negotiations drag on.

Officials at the district headquarters at 1310 Papin St. in downtown St. Louis refused to accept the petition but did agree, earlier in the day, to return to the bargaining table with union members.

Teachers and staff at KIPP High School organized in December of 2022. It took KIPP administrators seven months to come to the bargaining table, but after five months of on-and-off negotiations, bargaining had all but ground to a halt.

Now teachers and staff are calling on administrators to work collaboratively to improve the educational experience for students.

“We are dedicated to providing our students with the high-quality education they deserve,” said Nate Gibson, a KIPP history teacher and member of the bargaining team. “However, we face significant challenges in achieving this goal without a stable and empowered staff. We believe that by working together with district leaders, we can find solutions that address our concerns and create a thriving learning environment for all.”

The petition, signed by a majority of the school’s teachers, emphasizes three main areas of concern:

  • A Safe and Stable Learning Environment. The petition highlights the importance of a consistent and structured learning environment for students. It emphasizes the challenges created by high staff turnover at the charter high school and calls for solutions that ensure stability and continuity for students.
  • Educator Voice and Decision-Making. Educators seek greater involvement in shaping the school environment, including curriculum, programming, safety protocols and professional development opportunities. They believe that their expertise and insights are essential for creating and effective and thriving school community.
  • Compensation and Working Conditions. The petition calls out the disparities in compensation and working-hours between KIPP and other schools in the area. Educators believe that addressing these disparities is crucial for attracting and recruiting qualified staff, ultimately benefitting students.

“The school is suffering a 50 percent turnover rate that prevents the teachers from meeting the students’ needs,” said AFT Organizer Ben Harmon.

“A lot of times people look at this as just the teachers issues, but teachers didn’t become teachers to become wealthy. They care about what they do, and students needs are teachers’ needs. If the teachers needs can’t be met how do we meet the students’ needs?”

“We need a contract,” said Kurt Johnson, an English teacher at KIPP. “Too many teachers and staff members are leaving. It’s creating a situation that’s unsafe, because it’s creating too much teacher turnover. That’s unsafe for teachers and students. It’s not allowing us to do what we want to do, which is to create an environment where all of our students learn. We need to see movement on this contract.”

Johnson said teachers and prospective employees need a reason to stay, Johnson said and that starts with being competitive with the school districts surrounding the high school.

“At the beginning of the year we had multiple people leave for St. Louis Public Schools because they could make more money. We just don’t have anything to counter that and it’s creating a situation where the students don’t have enough certified teachers.

“For the first semester, I think there were two 10th grade certified teachers that made it through the whole semester. That’s only two subjects where students are getting certified teachers. They have seven periods a day. They’re taking these online classes for essential courses like math and science because there’s no teacher. To me, the problem is really about our students. It’s about being able to provide an education and make sure that we have a competitive offer for teachers to stay.”

Adelina Blood, who teaches English as a second language, started at KIPP in August of last year.

“Since then, in a semester and a half, there’s already been 10 teachers leave,” she said “That’s really unstable for not only the school but the education of the students. It creates an unsafe environment to have that many new teachers come in who don’t know the students and how the school works. What we’re trying to do is stabilize everything. We’re trying to make sure that we also have a voice and we can be listened to. We’re trying to make sure that we get heard and that the students get the best education that they can.”

Leonette White-Hilliard, a member of the teachers’ bargaining committee, said KIPP administrators are not bargaining in good faith.

“We’ve tried to meet in good faith,” she said “But they’re not really, honestly trying to come to a conclusion with the bargaining. Some things I thought would be fairly common sense, like a third party arbitrator deciding  any disputes. We’re still at loggerheads after a year over even something that simple. That would be a protection for both the school as well as the teachers. That would be something that protects everybody.

“It makes me as an individual question is this really good faith or are they hoping this problem with go away?”

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:24 PM

    I taught at a KIPP school in California. They also had a 50% turnover every year. They literally said that the turnover is just part of the business model that happens in KIPP schools. I got the heck out of there as soon as I could and transferred to a district school. NOBODY spends their entire teaching career in a charter school as it is literally unsustainable to have a meaningful and personal life while working in one. Most charter schools, (especially the larger ones), are simply scams run by business folks with no background in education. They use these schools to suck public money into their pockets while paying their teachers next to nothing.