Gompers Preparatory Academy, once known as an “unsafe, unstable, and an underdeveloped embarrassment” for the school district, has seen a transformation in the last few years. Nearly 15 years ago the school broke off contact with the district and became a charter school in partnership with UC San Diego, becoming a success story.
The long-standing San Diego charter school has now entered the union fold, facing structural changes for the second time. The union, organized by the California Teachers Association and San Diego Education Association, is aiming to reform standardized pay, eliminate merit pay, and institute a general increase in educators’ compensation. However, not all in-service teachers are on board with these initiatives.
Although union leaders gained the support of many school staff members, some teachers had reservations regarding the increased involvement with the organization. Jessica Chapman, a social justice and American history teacher embarking on her seventh year of service at Gompers, expressed her concern before the official unification of the union.
“I am a history teacher. I understand unions and I am not against unions. If a corporation is mistreating employees, they have every right to unionize and make sure they are treated fairly. That’s not what was happening here,” she said. Chapman went on to explain that the involvement of union politics and division between staff members has diminished the family atmosphere on campus.
The union is also seeking out longer school years and increased pay for summer school. Chapman believes that these pay increases will jeopardize other resources currently available at Gompers. With an increased teacher income, Gompers will not be able to sustain a “full-time nurse, a speech pathologist every day, counselors for every grade level, a counselor whose job is to help them get into college.”
Many parents have also objected to the rapid changes taking hold of the school administration. “I think there is a lot of disinformation and a lot of manipulation on the part of the teachers,” said Victor Rodriguez, whose child attends Gompers.
Other parents felt that they had been left out of the conversation, with one mother saying, “No one had a clue this was happening.”
Fifteen years ago, Gompers took initiative and became one of the most successful charter schools in San Diego. More than a decade later, the school is facing another set of institutional changes. The difference is that this time, not everyone is on board.