While the phenomenon of unionized charter schools is only budding, parochial schools have a longer tradition of collective bargaining. But two Catholic schools in Staten Island may have found a way to shed the union albatross. They are part of a larger group of ten schools operated by the Archdiocese of New York that, we learned in January, are to become independent come fall. As independent schools, they'll have their own governing boards and, most importantly, be responsible for their own financial stability and self-sufficiency. (This seems to have been a successful tactic for Catholic schools in Boston.) The Lay Faculty Association, which represents about 400 teachers at the ten Archdiocesan schools, cried foul; by cutting the schools loose, LFA argued, the Church was really trying to undermine the union by diluting its contractual power. Now, the two soon-to-be-independent schools in Staten Island have gone a step further: all of their teachers will have to reapply for their positions once the transition takes place. While this doesn't do away with the union all together, it does sidestep the burdensome dismissal process, and demonstrate a private-sector business savvy long needed in these parochial institutions. Let's hope that merit, not tenure, is rehiring criterion numero uno.
"Teachers at Farrell, Moore back to square one," by Amisha Padnani, Staten Island Advance, April 8, 2009