Contract Dispute Puts Baltimore School’s Future In Doubt

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s one of Baltimore’s top-performing middle schools. But a contract battle with the teachers may close KIPP: Ujima Village Academy in Northwest Baltimore.

As Gigi Barnett reports, state lawmakers may soon step in.

While teaching at the charter school isn’t traditional, the school is locked into an old-fashioned battle with the Baltimore Teachers’ Union.

At the center of the issue is a teacher-pay contract that’s about to expire.

“This is about the teachers having the right to work the extra time and deliver the KIPP program,” said Jason Botel, KIPP executive director.

That KIPP program calls on teachers to come early, work later and put in summer school time. The average work day for a KIPP teacher is about 9.5 hours. But they see results: 92 percent of KIPP students receive college acceptance letters and they lead the state in English and math scores.

“It’s just all about the kids. You’re not in it for the money if you’re going to be a teacher,” said Marsha Nowlin, special education teacher.

The teachers’ union is on the other side of the battle. It only agreed to a one-year contract that pays teachers for the overtime, making KIPP teachers some of the city’s highest paid. KIPP wants a longer contract.

Marietta English is the union president. In a written statement to WJZ, she said, “We are willing to negotiate with KIPP and we’ve told them that. Teachers agree to work at charter schools. But it our responsibility to negotiate their wages, working conditions and benefits.”

The school says if a contract agreement isn’t reached with the teachers’ union, the school will close on June 30.

Next week, KIPP teachers, parents and students plan to rally in Annapolis asking lawmakers to approve a bill that would allow charter school teachers to decide their hours.

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