Under the gray skies of a cold January afternoon in Franklinton, a new chapter was started in the book of Columbus labor history. On Thursday, Jan. 22, three charter school teachers at the Franklinton Preparatory Academy (FPA), housed at the former CCS Chicago Avenue Elementary School, stood up for their students, their families and their profession. They read a letter to Marty Griffith, the school’s founder, principal and CEO, informing him of their intent to make FPA the first unionized charter school in Central Ohio.
FPA teachers Geral Leka, Ryan Marchese and Julie Pfeifer took turns reading the in the hallway of the school. The teachers were joined by a delegation of supporters, including OEA Vice President Scott DiMauro, OEA Organizers Jeremy Bainman and Matt Ides, Central Ohio Labor Council Executive Director Walt Workman, CEA Vice President Phil Hayes and other community and labor members.
“Today we will file authorization cards with the National Labor Relations Board,” read FPA teacher Ryan Marchese, “representing the overwhelming majority of our educators and non-management staff, triggering a representation election to certify Franklinton Preparatory Academy Education Association (FPAEA) as our bargaining agent.”
These three teachers spoke out because they know that their teaching conditions are their students’ learning conditions. Specifically, the teachers addressed the need for a comprehensive discipline policy, adequate educational resources and the respect they deserve as education professionals.
“Educational resources are an important part of every school,” read FPA teacher Julie Pfiefer, “and in order to do the best job possible for our students and administrators we need certain items. These items include textbooks, manipulatives, a fully stocked school library with both fiction and non-fiction books, and videos, just to name a few.
FPA occupies several floors of a former district school– Chicago Avenue ES. CCS opened Chicago Avenue ES in 1897 and closed it 1982, along with Central HS. FPA opened in August of 2013, under the sponsorship of St. Aloysius. Charter School Specialists LLC, a for-profit consulting and operations firm that contracts with numerous charter schools is a partner with FPA.
The National Labor Relations Board will supervise an election to certify the FPAEA as the teachers’ exclusive bargaining representative in about a month and a half. You can read the full letter from the FPA teachers regarding their intent to unionize here.