Since the news broke that Marin and Steel Elementary Schools were up for potential charter conversion, there has been a great deal of speculation -- and and a lot of misinformation -- but not many reports about what the situation has been like at the schools themselves. Below is a letter from one educator at Steel describing the scene.
We (principal included) were informed on March 31st -- only after rumors initiated our calls to 440 -- that Mastery Charter will probably be taking over Steel Elementary. They have been sending parents of students from Gratz -- also run by Mastery Charter -- to our events to talk to parents without our knowledge. We were informed that we will have the option to create a presentation for the parents before a vote. We have merely weeks to create a presentation to complete with one that Mastery has had for probably a year. What can we offer except that we are a family? Although I am new here, there are teachers that have been in this building for 20+ years; they have taught generations of Nicetown families.What are the parents' choices? Send your child to a school that is purposely being underfunded, so that it can be given away? Or have them attend a CORPORATION that has high teacher turnover and underhandedly took over the neighborhood school without transparency of their intent?
Since the possibility of takeover went public, Mastery has been allowed to have 6 "representatives" outside the building every day, to try and convince families that they should vote for the turnover. When it rains, they're actually allowed to come inside our building and use our space for their petitioning. They are pulling out all the stops in their attempt to woo parents including dinners, calls, canvassing, etc. Today they even had a small bus out front to take parents on a tour of Gratz.These representatives have been harassing our own students. On Tuesday, April 8th, one of our students reported to her teacher that she was asked “why are you so late?” by one of the individuals at the Mastery table as she entered the building before 9am.
The girl complained, as well she should! If someone from Mastery had called the school to inquire why this student was late, I would not have been able to release that information or even confirm or deny that the student attends here under the guidelines of FERPA. So why do the representatives from Mastery have the right to ask students right outside our door? They do not.
Representatives from the PFT and AFT have also been out to inform our families about their choices. When they are there, the Mastery reps have been overheard angrily complaining that we are "using their tactics." They were complaining directly under a window and a teacher and her students could hear this conversation.
Our situation also puts the lack of a contract into a new perspective. I am not a conspiracy theorist by any means; however, the fact that more schools are being turned over while the contract is in negotiations is not a coincidence. They are expecting us to accept anything just to have a job. I will not by any means! Our staff is angry. It feels like all this is an attempt to intimidate us, but it is backfiring--we are finding the courage to fight back.
Brandy Meyers, Counselor, Steel Elementary
Check out Caucus Members Luigi Borda, Eileen Duffey, and others -- along with dozens of students, parents, and community members -- showing the School District who runs our schools!