Friday, May 31, 2019

What inspired you to become a school level leader for HSTA?

SEEQS teacher Shane Albritton explains why active participation in the union is so important

Click here to watch this video on YouTube.

Shane Albritton is a social studies teacher at the public charter School for Examining Essential Questions of Sustainability (SEEQS) in Kaimuki. He was honored by the Hawaii Department of Education in October 2018 as Charter Schools Teacher of the Year. He is also a faculty representative for HSTA at the school, and a member of HSTA's Government Relations Committee for the 2018–19 school year. Here, he explains what inspired him to become a school level leader, and why he believes active participation in HSTA is so important.

"I started my public school teaching career as a day-to-day sub, and then I was hired as an emergency hire, long-term sub, at Baldwin High School on Maui. During those first few years, I wasn’t really sure what the union was all about. I was kind of confused about what the role that it played was. And then one of our faculty reps at Baldwin invited me to come to the convention that year, and so I attended.

"When I arrived at the school where I’m working now, SEEQS public charter school, I pretty quickly realized that union engagement at SEEQS was not what I thought it should be or could be, to the extent that people weren’t even attending Teacher Institute Day. So I decided about halfway through my first year at SEEQS that I would run for school level leader for faculty rep, and got to work really talking to people, my colleagues at school, about the importance of the union and collective bargaining.

"I think there’s kind of a gray area with charter schools where school leaders sometimes—and maybe even sometimes employees—think that because it’s a charter school, different rules apply or certain provisions of the contract don’t apply to us, and we’ve been honestly having some growing pains dealing with those issues at our school. But that’s why I think it’s so important to have a collaborative relationship between the schools and the union and the union members, so that we’re all on the same page and we can all work together to improve outcomes for everyone.

"On our Lobby Day, we talked to every single legislator. They blocked out 15, 30, 45 minutes for us, and we sat down and told them what we need and what’s going on, and while we got varying degrees of response from them, they all took the meeting. They all listened. I think that point of leverage would not be afforded to us if we didn’t have a membership of 13,000 teachers.

"For collective bargaining purposes alone, if we are not all negotiating with one voice, we’re not going to get what we need and what we’re asking for.

"Active participation in HSTA is super important. I think across the board in the teaching profession, there are a lot of people that are on the brink of retirement and if you look at kind of the body of people here today at the convention but also the people that actually show up to the board meetings and the representative assemblies, they tend to be kind of the demographic that understands the importance of unions because they’ve got through these struggles—and I think a lot of younger teachers take for granted the things that their perseverance and their struggles have afforded to us.

"So I’ve been really trying to engage a lot of the colleagues at my school and kind of spread the word that if we want this organization to be the leverage point where teachers have a voice in these really important conversations about public education, we have to show up. We have to participate."