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Gompers Preparatory Academy. (Photo: gompersprep.org)

As a Teacher, Why I Fight for Freedom From Union ‘Representation’

Charter School with 100% grad rate, targeted by teachers union

By Jessica Chapman, May 29, 2020 6:27 am

‘In January 2019 unionization was forced upon us – we were never even given the respect of a vote.’

 

On the way to an interview in 2013, the freeway exit sign said, “Home.” It was prophetic. Gompers Preparatory Academy became my school home that day. As a teacher who believes in putting children first, I fit right into the Gompers’ family. 

But our school home was ambushed in November 2018.

The invasion started on a Friday morning. A letter – written by a “committee” of eight teachers – was placed in our mailboxes. They claimed their efforts would make Gompers “even greater.”

The letter perplexed me.

I confronted one of the “committee” members and was handed a petition – a legal document in support of forming a union with the San Diego Education Association. My heart sank. 

I immediately went to leadership. They learned of the invasion the same way I did – a letter – on the same day.

Our school home, where we grew as educators, worked as a team, and pursued a mission, became a battlefield. Since that day, it’s been Us vs. Them: Gompers devoted leadership, parents, and staff against the union “committee.”

Prior to 2005, Gompers was chronically failing and run by unions. Gang fights and police presence were standard. Teachers quit after weeks or sometimes days in the classroom. Learning took a backseat to survival.

After years of failure, Gompers faced three choices: close, be taken over by the state, or transition to a charter school. The parents of our community rallied around an inspiring man, Director Vincent Riveroll, fought against SDUSD and the union and formed the life-changing Gompers Preparatory Academy Charter.

Over the last 15 years, Gompers transformed into a thriving and safe school home. We boast a 100% graduation rate. In partnership with the University of California at San Diego, over 220 of our graduates have earned full-ride college scholarships, and Director Riveroll was honored by the San Diego NAACP for his innovative and successful work in inner city education.

We’ve been successful because of our culture, our staff, our community and our commitment to our mottoes “Whatever it takes” and “With Students First.” These qualities are essential to the success of Gompers, but now the union is eroding them.

Since the union invasion, it’s become clear the “committee” went behind the backs of the most senior teachers and dedicated staff at Gompers, including myself, to sneak in a union. Gompers leadership has an open door policy, yet the “committee” of just eight teachers formed without any attempt at conversation, collaboration, or transparency.  They got signatures using deceptive tactics and ambushed the rest of us with their sudden introduction letter. Two of the “committee” members no longer even teach at Gompers.

 

A union that claims to be democratic and protectors of the rights of teachers is silencing teachers, blocking our right to vote, and harming our students.

 

Thanks to laws pushed by the same unions, our leadership was denied the right to get involved. So in January 2019 unionization was forced upon us – we were never even given the respect of a vote.

The union is powerful, and once it got its foothold, Gompers’ loving teachers were silenced. The union is now tearing our Gompers family apart, splitting teachers, hurting families, and sabotaging our incredible leadership.

Now every time I come to work, I face divisiveness, hateful rhetoric, and political maneuvering.  It’s intimidating, but Plato said, “Silence is consent,” so I’m fighting back with many other teachers and families.

After struggling through a year of the union’s backstabbing, name-calling, and flat out lies, we collected teacher signatures and filed for a decertification vote in hopes of being freed from this union invasion. This is fully within our rights as employees supposedly being represented, but the union filed “unfair labor practice” charges against Gompers, which they’ve used to delay our chances of receiving a vote.

The irony: A union that claims to be democratic and protectors of the rights of teachers is silencing teachers, blocking our right to vote, and harming our students.

For seven years now I’ve taken that “Home” exit on the way to Gompers, and I’ve taken my place in an awe-inspiring school family that has radically and positively changed my life and the lives of countless students. We’re inspired by the powerful words engraved on the sidewalk just inside the gate at Gompers – words spoken by a 2005 student while she fought for Gompers’ life-changing transformation at a San Diego Unified School Board meeting. She asked, “Don’t we deserve good things?”

For seven years, I’ve answered her question with, “Yes, you do.”

That’s why I fight. And it’s the reason I’ll continue to stand up to unions and “committees” who put money before kids and politics before futures.

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18 thoughts on “As a Teacher, Why I Fight for Freedom From Union ‘Representation’

  1. Until we have School Choice, if you love God, if you love America, and/or if you love your children, you will find a way to get them out of the #GovernmentRunSchools where they will be dumbed down, academically, patriotically, religiously and morally.

    https://www.publicschoolexit.com/

    1. Perla, By telling someone to grow up, you’re implying that they are immature. What (about her story) makes you think she’s immature? And, why should she shut up? She’s writing about a personal experience. Do you know this woman personally? Why some much spite towards a complete stranger?

  2. My eight year old is enrolled at a San Diego Unified school; my three older children and I are former students of this school district too. As a society we should not continue to tolerate an educational system that places students last and the financial and political wants of unions and high level administrators first.

  3. Any person who cares even the slightest about this topic knows the school has not graduated 100% of its students since it started it first made that claim. Also, teachers, including yourself, were not forced to sign anything, they were asked.
    It’s California law that teachers have the right to not join a union.
    You work at a school the demands you work more hours a day, more days a year than most other teachers in the country….and your pay scale is less than most other teachers.
    It doesn’t take a genius to understand why a union would form at your school.
    Effective leadership employs many aspects of character. The most important of which allows for subordinates to be heard and loved on. Doesn’t sound as if that’s happening at your school and smear campaigns such as the misleading article you post is unfortunately ineffective in its merit. It also has holes which do no justice for the matter that is really at play here – the students!

    1. James, I get the impression that you… or someone you know… works at the same school as this woman and you oppose her views on the union. My guess, you’re probably part of the “committee” that she refers to in her article. Quit being a troll. If you want preach your “pro-union” rhetoric, go find someone to publicize your version of the story and leave this woman alone.

        1. Yeah, not buying that. But… whatever. Maybe you and “Perla” should connect. Seems like you two are a hot mess – made in hell. Go elsewhere to spew your crap.

  4. Jessica, thank you for sharing your personal story. It takes bravery to stand up to powerful unions and their members.
    Charter schools and home schooling have been under attack. Less students in a traditional public school equates to less money to feed the hungry beast called the CTA!
    If the status quo were producing such a great education for the students then why is California near the bottom percentile in most subjects. The slide just keeps going downward.
    I wish you the best in your endeavor and stay safe.
    I look forward to your updates.
    @Perla if you are an educator then Lord help us all! Stay Classy Perla.

    1. Jessica, you have my support and I want to thank you for sharing your story. Big props to “one fed up cali girl”! Very well put! And, I agree that “Perla” is contributing to problem with today’s educators (if she is one). Let’s make put the students before money and politics!

  5. This article is completely coming from a victim stand point. There are several points that speak from that perspective & twist the narrative of the actual story. The article fails to address the issues Gompers staff face by not having a union, what the union will be able to provide to the staff, as well as the important fact that some of the administration is apart of their own union where they are protected. Teachers at Gompers work summers with no additional pay, in addition to 2 weeks in either winter or spring with no additional pay. Their pay scale is unfair, not public, and the numbers are staggering. When some pay was released the numbers were shocking for teachers with less experience & less credentials/education getting a significant amount more. The lack of transparency speaks volumes as to what Gompers is hiding. In addition, teachers are pulled from their prep to substitute classes instead of hiring substitute teachers & they are micromanaged through their incredibly ridiculous management system in each department. There are many other things the union is fighting for because Gompers has failed to ensure their employees are be treating fairly & getting what they deserve. Last but not least, Gompers has LAID OFF nearly half of their teachers this week & will continue layoffs until the 12th. These cuts to their classroom will be felt deeply by the students, most importantly. The last thing we should be doing at this time is letting go of teachers who need to be there for the students. This is disgraceful.

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