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Khepera Charter ratifies union contract

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

The Board of Directors at Khepera Charter School and the year-old bargaining unit representing its teachers ratified their first contract Monday. The contract establishes a salary scale and regularizes procedures for labor-management communications and teacher evaluation.

Khepera is a K-8 African-centered academy in West Mount Airy that opened in 2004.

The teachers voted last June to be represented by the Alliance of Charter Schools and Employees, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania.

“I look forward to working together with the ACSE as a stakeholder and partner in the continued growth and development of Khepera Charter School,” said Khepera CEO Charles A. Highsmith in a press release from the union.

According to the release, the contract includes “a defined salary scale, the creation of a labor-management committee for ongoing communications and collaboration, and clarifications to the teacher evaluation and support system.”

Charter schools were established in part to free schools from requirements imposed by teacher contracts and administrative mandates. Very few have unions.

Third-grade teacher and building rep Mari Rivers, a former member of a union at a District-operated school, said that union membership at a charter is no different. “A union is a union. It’s always about teachers having a voice,” she said.

Khepera is the fifth among Philadelphia’s 80 charter schools that the ACSE has organized.

The school, with 450 students, has met its federal learning goals for the past two years.