The following are the heart of why we are organizing. If met, these demands represent the improvement in the lives of our students, teachers, and staff. These are a working list of demands and are subject to amendments as our union grows.
Our demands are not listed in any particular order and it is imperative that every single demand is met.
- PAY EQUITY FOR ALL NETWORK EMPLOYEES
While the network has rolled out a salary schedule this year, it was not created at the bargaining table where we would be able to legally negotiate over our compensation. Despite hours of feedback sessions run by the administration, this pay scale initially only included teaching staff, and only through the organizing of different groups, has expanded to include more positions such as social workers, college counselors, and alumni counselors. Even with these changes, 12-month employees are on the same pay scale as 10-month employees, social workers with master’s degrees start at the same pay as educators right out of college. Finally, many staff who are integral to our students’ success–our culture team members, office staff, custodians, building managers, paraprofessionals, and teacher assistants–are left out of the compensation schedule and have only received a one time percentage increase. Without collective bargaining, these oversights and exclusion of certain staff voices will continue.
- ELECTED REPRESENTATION ON OUR SCHOOL BOARD & ACCESS FOR ALL
The Noble Network Board of Directors oversees the operations and vision of our 18 public charter school campuses and should be accountable to the 12,000 students we serve and the 1,300 staff members they employ.
Board meetings should be held on a regular basis and at a time that accommodates Noble educators, students, and families, not just our board members. Meetings should be held in locations that are accessible to families and at times outside the work or school day to allow participation from all Noble stakeholders.
Our current board does not include those who are most impacted by the decisions that the school board makes. This is unacceptable. We want a process by which we can elect representatives from our schools to have the power to make the changes that we need. We want a school board with parent, student, and educator representation from every campus, elected directly by the Noble community(Read this to find out how educators reacted to the cancellation of the March board meeting).
- AN SCC THAT SUPPORTS AND NURTURES YOUNG PEOPLE
Our student code of conduct (SCC) should prioritize our students’ learning, growth, and development rather than criminalizing and punishing young people’s behavior. The SCC should be restorative, transformative, and center around the reduction of harm. Our staff should be trained to enforce the SCC in ways that center our students’ humanity.
All students should be treated with dignity, regardless of race, ethnic background, gender, gender identity or expression, sexuality, religion, expression of free speech, income, disability or other factors. Our discipline system should not be discriminatorily enforced to the current extent, where we see our African American males disproportionately receiving the most demerits, detentions, suspension and expulsions. The SCC and its enforcement must change to respect the diversity of the students we serve, to encourage these differences, and improve our school culture, especially in regards to dress code and bathroom policies that have an adverse impact on young women, transgender, and gender non-conforming students at Noble.
- RESPECT AND SUPPORT IN THE WORKPLACE AS A MEANS FOR STAFF RETENTION
Teacher and staff retention is an issue that affects our students. As of January 2018, almost 70% of employees at Noble Network had been employed by Noble Network for four years or less. If we want to have educators who have been at Noble longer than the graduating classes, we need to invest in Noble employees.
- PROTECTION FOR THE SERVICES OUR DIVERSE LEARNERS NEED, IN COMPLIANCE WITH SPECIAL EDUCATION LAW
Our students deserve the lawful number of learning specialists and paraprofessionals to meet the needs written in their individualized education plans and behavior intervention plans. Across our city and state, special education is in crisis, and our schools are no exception. The Noble Network must do better to provide, protect, and fight for the services our students are entitled to receive.
The special education team’s collective decision, rather than Noble’s policies and structures, should be the determining factor in what accommodations and supports a student should receive. Our promotional requirements and disciplinary procedures, should NEVER under any circumstances hamper what the team deems is appropriate to include in a student’s 504 or individualized education plan.
- INVESTMENT IN ALTERNATIVES TO COLLEGE
We excel at getting students to college but far less of our students get through college. Holding students to high standards does not mean setting them up for failure. While a four year university is, and should be, an option for all of our students, it should not be the only option. Student choice should be prioritized and supported regardless of whether they choose to enroll in a four year university or not. Every student that walks through our doors should feel like they have the opportunity to succeed regardless of the path they choose. We, as an institution, have no right to mandate that they spend money and time in a degree that may or may not be the most appropriate option for them. Our post-secondary resources must be expanded to prioritize 2-year degrees and other job training programs such as apprenticeships or certificate programs that prepare our students for jobs that are needed in the job market here in Chicago. Focusing solely on four year colleges sets some students up to fail out of institutions without addressing other ways that they can be successful in careers.
- INVESTMENT IN THE MENTAL HEALTH OF STUDENTS AND STAFF
The more than 12,000 young people who attend Noble schools deserve the highest quality support when it comes to their mental health. In a society where mental health is so stigmatized, in which our students experience tremendous trauma, we have a duty to provide safety, stability, and counseling through adequate staffing of social workers at each of our 18 campuses.
We demand that the Noble Network hire a full-time social worker supervisor who is licensed in social work. Social workers are charged with keeping students safe in cases of suicide, homicide, abuse and neglect, yet they have never had a full-time supervisor in the 20 years that Noble has been open, despite a unanimous request by the social workers currently employed by the Network. This is completely unethical and puts our students lives at risk. Just as we value the physical fitness and health of our students, their mental health must be prioritized, too.
- ACCESS TO EDUCATION REGARDLESS OF INCOME
As a public charter school network, we must make our education accessible to all, regardless of income. At district schools in CPS, families are granted fee waivers based on their income levels. The Noble handbook states that we serve low-income families, and therefore we demand that Noble enact similar policies so that our students and families do not face barriers to accessing their education and participation in other activities that enrich their time in school such as field trips, clubs, or prom. We should never put our families in the position where they must choose between attending a Noble school and paying for necessities for their daily lives.