Natomas Unified opens door for unionization of charter school teachers

Natomas Unified’s school board approved an agreement Tuesday that could lead teachers to unionize at Leroy Greene Academy and future dependent charter schools in the growing district.

The agreement settles a case filed with the state Public Employment Relations Board by the Natomas Teachers Association in 2012, said Superintendent Chris Evans. The union asked that the district close the charter school and reopen it as a magnet school, Evans said.

The PERB complaint came after the district replaced Leroy Greene Middle School, a traditional campus shuttered in 2010 due to structural problems, with the charter program in 2012.

“(It) was a way to retain the school we have and reach a conclusion the teachers association was satisfied with,” Evans said of the agreement.

Leroy Greene Academy currently serves seventh- through 10th-graders and intends to add a grade each of the next two years to fill out its program. The school has about 400 students.

The settlement says that school district officials won’t stand in the way of NTA if it moves to unionize teachers after July 1 at Leroy Greene Academy, the district’s only dependent charter school. The district also agrees to unionize all future dependent charter schools.

In return, the union agreed to a three-year probationary period instead of the standard two-year probationary period for teachers at Leroy Greene Academy. The teachers also will continue to work more hours by offering more instructional minutes and spending more time collaborating with other teachers, Evans said.

“We retained a significant amount of influence over the teachers teaching at Leroy Greene,” Evans said.

The agreement offers teachers in Natomas Unified the flexibility to move between district schools – charter or not – without losing seniority. It also offers added job security to Leroy Greene teachers, tenure and an agreement to reopen their salary schedule during negotiations in 2015-16.

Evans said the agreement was designed to ensure that the positive work being done at Leroy Greene Academy will continue no matter the outcome of the case. The promise of tenure and the ability to transfer ensures the district “keeps the best and brightest” teachers, Evans said.

Natomas Unified opened Leroy Greene Academy, which focuses on visual arts and technology, in 2012 to help the district compete for students with the four independent charter schools in the district. Independent charter schools receive district authorization but are typically formed by outside organizations, and the district has less involvement in running independent charters.

Natomas Teachers Association representatives couldn’t be reached Tuesday for comment.

Natomas officials expect a major expansion after the federal government lifts a building moratorium as expected this summer. Thousands of home developments with wiring and plumbing already in place are slated for completion, bringing more families and students to Natomas. The district projects enrollment to climb from 13,800 students this year to 23,184 students in 10 years.

Call The Bee’s Diana Lambert, (916) 321-1090. Follow her on Twitter @dianalambert.