Charlottesville School Board indicates support for allowing teachers to unionize

Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 10:41 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Charlottesville School Board members showed near-unanimous support for teachers unionizing during their meeting Thursday, January 6.

Not only was the board supportive of collective bargaining, there was also a notable symbolic gesture during the meeting.

Charlottesville City Schools Superintendent Royal Gurley said, “I do think it’s very important that she and I stand together,” as he called Jessica Taylor to the podium to address the board members. Taylor is a teacher who has spent 17 years in Charlottesville. She’s also the president of the Charlottesville Education Association, which is calling for collective bargaining.

“I don’t want this to be something that we’re running away from,” Gurley said. “I do think that we can have this conversation together.”

During a presentation to the School Board, Gurley pointed out ways the school division has worked with teachers already. Taylor agrees, saying the partnership has been good.

“I cannot remember a time that educators were as involved in the discussion, planning, and implementation of policies that directly impacted our day-to-day work and classrooms than during this pandemic,” Taylor said.

But Taylor says any change in leadership could threaten that, hence the need for educator representation.

That came after a handful of teachers commented on a potential policy, asking for support from the board. David Koenig, a history teacher at Lugo-McGinness Academy, was one of them.

“What I would appreciate much more is the chance to join together with my brother and sister educators and to sit down at the negotiating table with Dr. Gurley and the school division as equal partners in the education of our children,” Koenig said during public comment.

Before the board has a formal say about collective bargaining, the CEA will need to offer a resolution. They hope that can be done in the spring.

School Board members shared their excitement for that chance.

“You literally keep our children safe right now from both a virus and the threat of gun violence,” Board Member Lashundra Bryson Morsberger said. “I think that you’re owed the respect of having a formal voice at the table.”

“Being in a classroom myself, [I know] that it’s important for teachers to have that sense of empowerment,” added newly-elected Board Member Dom Morse.

Taylor says about 40% of city school teachers are members of the CEA, but they hope to increase that number moving forward.

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