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More than a quarter of the instructors at southeast Queens’ only public charter school were laid off last week and the teacher’s union is claiming the decision was done in retaliation after they protested unfair work conditions.
A total of 11 Merrick Academy teachers were laid off July 20 and all were notified by a letter delivered by FedEx. The letter, signed by the school’s director of operations, Dennett D. Edwards, did not give specific reasons as to why the instructor was fired, but Merrick officials told the United Federation of Teachers that it had to do with recent performance evaluations.
Eully Risi, 28, of Whitestone, taught at the school at 207-01 Jamaica Ave. for two years and said she was never reprimanded and never had problems teaching her students.
“I was caught off-guard,” she said. “I’ve never been written up, never been given a bad evaluation.”
Michael Mulgrew, president of the UFT, said the firings were unjust because all the instructors were actively protesting Merrick’s administrators over contract negotiations that have gone on for two years. Dur the last year, teachers, union officials and parents have been demonstrating outside the school in an attempt to persuade Merrick’s board to give the 36 teachers a contract, but as of Tuesday the negotiations have still been ongoing.
“The Merrick board has come up with reason after reason not to come up with a new contract,” Mulgrew said at a news conference last Thursday.
Gerald Karikari, head of Merrick’s board, did not comment about the situation before press time Tuesday.
Instructors said the lack of contracts was one of the many complaints they had with the school. Jonathan Carrington, one of the fired teachers who was the UFT chaplain leader, said the board members do not invest their time in school, which has no playground.
“We as educators have a passion for what we do. It’s the children [who] suffer,” he said.
Mulgrew said he would be talking to the state Public Employment Relations Board to get the firings of the “Merrick 11” reversed.
“The Merrick board has shown children how to break the law and discriminate against people who stand up for themselves,” he said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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