Despite an announcement from the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy’s teachers union that teachers had voted not to sign their offer letters, the school board said it has received some signed letters.
The vote by the teachers union was in response to the board’s decision, announced in December, to withdraw recognition from the union, known as the JBHA Faculty Association, when its contract expires in August.
On March 25, the JBHA Faculty Association Facebook page posted the following comment: “This afternoon, teachers voted to not sign the offer letters from the Board as they were written.”
But in an email on April 1, board President George Gordon said that the board had received a substantial number of signed letters.
“We are in a continuing dialogue with the faculty representatives regarding ways to work through our issues and are hopeful that, as we do so, we will receive signed letters from the remaining members of the faculty as well,” Gordon said in the email.
The JBHA Faculty Association Facebook page has been particularly active in recent weeks, encouraging alumni and parents to write to the board with their concerns and to share stories about how the school’s teachers have been a positive influence in their lives. The union has shared the letters on its Facebook page.
The Facebook page has also encouraged its supporters to sign a Change.org petition called “Recognize the JBHA Faculty Association,” started by Rabbi Mira Wasserman, the director of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College’s Center for Jewish Ethics and an assistant professor of rabbinic literature. The petition description explains that unions are consistent with Jewish values. More than 500 people have signed it so far.
Wasserman said she started the petition to let teachers know that they’re valued and to potentially influence the board to change its mind.
“I would love the board to change their minds and reverse the decision,” said Wasserman, who is an alum of the school and has two children enrolled there. “What makes me feel that way is the decision does not meet the goals that they’ve articulated. The goal they’ve articulated is being unified with the faculty and the administration and fulfilling the school’s educational mission. I don’t think they can do that given the way this decision cuts the teachers out.”
On the evening of March 18, teachers, senior administrators and the board held a meeting to discuss the board’s decision. Outside the school, dozens of families and alumni showed up with signs to show their support for the union.
Though neither side commented on the meeting’s actual content, they both expressed optimism.
“We appreciate all the teachers who attended last night’s meeting and who spoke from the heart,” a JBHA Faculty Association Facebook page post on March 19 said. “The tone of the meeting was candid and respectful. Let’s now move forward to find a solution that preserves the collective bargaining rights of the teachers and positions our school for many more years of educational excellence. #BringBackMyBarrack”
“From the Board’s perspective, the meeting on Monday was productive,” Gordon said in an email on March 21. “We had a constructive dialogue with the faculty as a whole, and we look forward to continuing our discussions. As it was a closed meeting, that is as much as I feel comfortable saying.”