Earlier this month, teachers and staff at University of Cleveland Preparatory School voted 18-4 in favor of forming a union, becoming the first charter school in Cleveland to do so. Elsewhere, at Tremont's Northeast Ohio College Preparatory School, teachers and staff have been meeting to discuss unionization efforts. Currently, no vote is set.
This week, however, the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Northeast Ohio College Preparatory School
(NOCP) and its umbrella organization, I Can schools. (I Can also runs University of Cleveland Preparatory School.) The complaint alleges that high-level administrators at NOCP conducted "surveillance" during the unionization efforts, constituting unfair labor practices.
Read the full complaint below.
"From January 20, 2016 through January 22, 2016...[Krista] Mershimer and [Tim] McAtee, [deans of student learning and instruction at NOCP,] coercively increased the scrutiny of employees performing their work because of their union sympathies and activities," according to the complaint. The filing lists specific instances last fall, when Mershimer allegedly interrupted two union meetings and "
stood outside the door of the room where a union meeting was being held and made her presence known to employees in attendance."
Teachers and staff at NOCP are awaiting the results of the NLRB involvement before proceeding with more formal unionization steps.
The genesis of the NLRB's involvement here and the
publicity of I Can's internal matters can be traced back to parent concerns. Anecdotally, Scene
learned this week, a shortage of textbooks and high teacher turnover at NOCP in particular led to a push among parents to hold the school accountable. These are well liked schools among the community of parents — and they outperform many other charter schools in Northeast Ohio.
"This is the first one that we've heard about over efforts to crack down on organizing," Sandy Theis, executive director of ProgressOhio, tells Scene. ProgressOhio has been pulling records and publishing data relating to the successes and failures of charter schools across the state. "It's not common to try to organize a charter school, but I think the level of unfair labor practices has so irritated people that they have set the table for unionization."
A hearing on these matters is scheduled for June 1.