Teachers at Albuquerque High School marched on their bosses last month and won a significant victory! It all started a few months ago when the instructional council (IC) was debating how best to use our collective prep time for the 2016-2017 school year. Teachers discussed the merits and drawbacks of the existing academy structure to determine if it should remain. At the time, AHS had four academies to include: Freshmen Academy, Sophomore Academy, Fine Arts Academy and Business and Leadership Academy. In general, the academies worked on cross-curricular projects, student success and family outreach.
After much feedback from constituents as well as debate and discussion, IC voted to scrap the academies and use our prep time to work in our departments. The general feeling was that the academies had run their course and become stale. No one could see how the academies were improving student or teacher performance. We voted to change our structure in order to work in our departments on curriculum development, vertical and horizontal alignment and common core.
At an IC meeting after the democratic decision had been made, two administrators informed IC that the freshmen and sophomore academies would remain in existence solely for parent outreach. All freshmen and sophomore teachers would have to alternate their academies weekly yanking them from their departmental work. This decision would place an inequitable expectation on underclassmen teachers.
Administration also proposed that all teachers be available for twenty minutes of their prep period every Monday for parent meetings. It was obvious to all teachers that parent meetings would take more than twenty minutes cutting event deeper into our prep time placing a huge burden on our backs.
In response, members of the Freshmen Academy drafted a letter for administration demanding that they honor the democratic decision made in IC and implement the departmental prep time. The Freshmen Academy members all signed the letter and went as a group to deliver it to three administrators. The key points made in the letter were:
- Administration has no right to undermine a binding IC decision
- Professional learning communities should be time for teachers to collaborate, not time for parent conferences per the negotiated contract
- The extra expectation for freshmen and sophomore teachers is inequitable
- There is no data to suggest that parent conferences are improving student performance
Members of the Freshmen Academy then reached out to other academies and departments asking them to deliver letters in solidarity. This set off a wave of letter writing and deliveries that ultimately forced administration to concede. In short, teachers won!
This was a victory in a few different ways. First, we got the departmental prep time we desired and voted for. Second, teachers united. This collective action built confidence and the belief that we have a right to make demands on our administration. Teachers saw very clearly that if we work together to put pressure on our bosses, we can win! Third, it sent a strong and clear message to administration that they must respect the democratic process at our school. We will not tolerate totalitarian decision-making. As we enter into our next struggle, this event will serve as a stepping-stone and remind us of the crucial importance of solidarity and collective action in fighting for our rights!