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Ben Franklin board president: Extent of teachers’ complaints was unknown before union drive

The board that governs Benjamin Franklin High School held a public hearing Thursday evening regarding a faculty petition to unionize.

The Lens live-blogged the meeting below.

If Franklin’s board approves the union, a move supported by 85 percent of the school’s faculty, Franklin would become the second charter school in New Orleans to organize.

Faculty are organizing for a number of reasons, including salaries. Though the school advertises a pay scale, the administration negotiates separately with each teacher. In some cases, teachers with similar backgrounds are paid different amounts.

Other issues: Teachers contend that contracts are renewed too late in the year, which makes it hard for a terminated teacher to find work elsewhere. Teachers also have been let go swiftly in the past, and some say those decisions weren’t fair.

After the meeting, board president Duris Holmes said that some of the teachers’ complaints were unknown to the board before Thursday night.

He said no one on the board has “firmly said no” to a union and that members are still trying to understand all points of view.

Some of the issues teachers raised, particularly contract renewals, are easily addressed, he said.

He also said that he thought teachers’ one-on-one salary negotiations “works like it should work,” but the board is open to discussing changes.

The faculty want to affiliate themselves with United Teachers of New Orleans, a chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.

That union represented the city’s public school teachers before Hurricane Katrina. Its ranks were decimated after the state took over the city’s schools and the Orleans Parish School Board didn’t renew its collective bargaining agreement.

Ben Franklin’s board plans to vote on the matter May 15.

Live blog

Charter schools reporter Fritz Esker contributed to this story.

This story was updated after the hearing with Duris Holmes’ comments. (May 8, 2014)

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  • Sam Smith

    Hopefully the Board will recognize the benefits to them by unionization — they will be able to better collaborate with their staff in a more uniform, thoughtful manner. The union can better take the pulse of their staff and have concerns and thoughts for instructional improvement relayed in a structured, more meaningful way. Unionization will help reduce teacher concerns over job security and insure things like progressive discipiline and fair hearing of disputes. This will foster a sense of well being among the staff and a feeling of ownership as a stakeholder in the entire educational process. The union can also be invaluable to the Board by helping to identify areas for teacher development and improvement. Hopefully the Board will voluntarily recognize the union and use the goodwill generated by such recognition to help foster better relations with their staff and establish open lines of communication in order to bolster student success. I wish the Board and Union well.

  • nickelndime

    Which law firm is on retainer by the FRANKLIN Board? If the FRANKLIN Board says it does not pay a retainer, then what firm(s) is/are billing and getting paid legal fees? How much has the FRANKLIN Board been billed so far this fiscal year? Last year? The year before? Get it? Track the legal expenses. Obtain the contracts that the teachers sign, AND post it. I don’t care if the contracts are redacted. THE LENS has already posted the salaries. The public has the right to look at the language and the expenditures.

  • disqus_qtvF4sydqM

    Duris Holmes, the President of Franklin’s Board of Directors, is an attorney. It’s possible that he donates his professional services pro bono. Many charter board members are recruited because of the potential donation of their professional expertise.

  • disqus_qtvF4sydqM

    nickelndime,
    Duris Holmes, the President of Franklin’s Board of Directors, is an attorney. It’s possible that he donates his professional services pro bono. Many charter board members are recruited because of the potential donation of their professional expertise.