On their last day before summer break, Mary D. Coghill Charter School teachers voted to unionize, triggering contract negotiations with the school’s board.
Teachers voted 36 to 22 on Friday in favor of representation by the United Teachers of New Orleans.
Coghill is the fifth charter school in New Orleans to vote to unionize post-Katrina, and it will be the third to move on to contract negotiations. The C-rated school serves 600 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
“We look forward to bargaining with the union in good faith when the teachers return from summer vacation,” said Coghill’s labor attorney, Mag Bickford. She has represented two other New Orleans charter schools in labor matters.
The local teachers union was all but destroyed after Hurricane Katrina, when the Orleans Parish School Board laid off 7,600 public school employees.
Coghill teachers announced they had formed a union in March. At a meeting in April, teachers and parents spoke passionately in favor of the union.
Teachers said they wanted the union because of poor communication by administrators and unstable leadership. The school has had four principals, including two temporary ones, in the last year.
The union first asked Coghill’s board to voluntarily recognize it and begin contract negotiations. When the board postponed a decision, the union asked the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election.
So far, two charter schools' boards have voted to voluntarily recognize their teachers' unions: Benjamin Franklin High School and Morris Jeff Community School. Both now have collective bargaining contracts.
The charter boards that run Lusher Charter School and International High School of New Orleans decided not to recognize their teachers’ unions, forcing elections.
Teachers at Lusher voted against union representation, but a smaller group of teacher aides voted in favor. No negotiations have started because the school is still fighting the union before the federal labor board.
International High School’s teachers voted in favor of union representation. Its board, too, is fighting it.
UTNO President Jim Randels said he is pleased that Coghill's board president has said the board will honor the teachers’ decision.