Donial Rodriguez serves as union chapter leader at University Prep Charter High School. Formerly Green Dot New York Charter School, University Prep was founded in 2008 in partnership with the United Federation of Teachers. The school has a longer school day, provides intensive support for English language learners and other special needs students, and maintains high expectations through a college preparatory curriculum. Today it is one of the most successful small high schools in New York: 100% of the school’s first graduating class was accepted to a two or four year college. Twenty-six percent of University Prep student’s earned an Advanced Regents diploma, compared to 16% citywide.
Teachers at University Prep are members of the United Federation of Teachers and negotiate their own, school-based contract. They lead contract talks, with assistance from union staff. The process gives them an unprecedented degree of direct control and ownership over their work. As Donial explains, it deepens teachers’ commitment to the school, professionalizes relationships, and creates a foundation for student success.
Their landmark, 29-page agreement has been championed by AFT President Randi Weingarten as a model school-based contract; it has influenced union and district contract negotiations in Washington, D.C., New Haven, CT, Chicago, IL, and other cities.