Sign our Petition!
Please show your support for Carmen teachers and staff by signing a petition to Carmen CEO Jennifer Lopez and Carmen Administration requesting that they commit to remain neutral as their employees consider whether to form a union and respect their employees’ right to unionize in an atmosphere free from intimidation.
As a former employee of the Carmen Network, I am in full support of the Carmen Workers Collective. Leaving Carmen was a hard decision for me to make, but I ultimately left for a couple reasons. The first reason was the lack of equitable and sustainable systems for teachers…Many times people in leadership implied to me that if I didn’t do the workload then I did not care for the students…The second reason I left was the lack of competitive pay and benefits. For my fifth year of teaching I was offered $43k per year plus “stipends”…The local public school district pays starting teachers $44k. The reasons good teachers like myself leave can be solved by better collaboration between teachers and admin, along with better treatment of teachers, because if we truly care for the students of Milwaukee they need experienced, happy, and healthy teachers.
As a union member of Milwaukee Teachers Education Association (MTEA), I strongly support Carmen staff/employees in their decision to unionize. It is critically important for their concerns to be heard now more than ever. COVID is negatively affecting our Black and Brown communities. Their voices matter too, and I stand with them in making it happen.
My doctors encouraged on multiple occasions that I leave my position mid-year because of the work-related stress and the toll it was taking on my health. As some of you may know, this toll did result in a week-long hospital stay followed by a week-long recovery. I had been many, many years stable, while also working the same hours in urban education, prior to that hospitalization. The stress I have endured over the last two years was uniquely correlated to my poor treatment at Carmen.… I need to leave Carmen because over and over I have put in too much for too little. Too much time for too little compensation, too much energy for too little recognition, and too much love for too little love back. I know that I can teach elsewhere and be rightfully acknowledged, valued, and compensated for the expertise, enthusiasm, and dedication I bring to a school community.
I loved so much there, it was maddening to leave. I quit in protest over —- ordering me to pass 12 kids that never submitted a thing after I had checked out for the summer. It was for the first 8 weeks before Covid, and wasn’t a student complaint issue. In 22 years, had never been told or asked to do that. She also knew my schedule changed in May the previous year, told —– but not me…then was super inflexible and micromanaging with me in trying to quick create a course, as the outgoing teacher in charge of Social Studies deleted everything for World Cultures. Made my life hell that year. I’m so proud of you guys for fighting.
Working at Carmen was a blessing and a curse. I loved my students and colleagues. It is clear that Carmen is a special place with promising potential, but I felt completely demoralized by administration (this does not apply to all building administrators. Many clearly cared about us but were strapped for what they could do because of the central office administrators.” The pay was absolutely abysmal compared to MPS and suburban districts. The support for teachers just isn’t there because special education and mentors are stretched too thin. I was not only a teacher, but a counselor for my students. I was not compensated to perform duties outside of being the teacher I was hired to be. I was micromanaged and constantly under watch by some administrators for my every move. I was forced to do things that I felt ran against the values that Carmen proclaims to have, solely because they were the “rules” I felt like more of a police officer than a teacher.
I want to reiterate that there are some wonderful building administrators at Carmen, and the vast majority of the staff cares so much for their students. However, the people making the decisions at the top are either clueless to the working conditions of their staff or do not care at all about their teachers. This is why I left. This is why so many leave. It’s not fair to the kids who need more consistency of the adults in their life.
As a former Carmen educator and member of the founding team at SMS, I am overtly aware of the challenges students, families, and educators face during the COVID-19 crisis. The students Carmen serves deserve the absolute best, as we are increasingly mindful that the pandemic’s effects are disproportionately affecting students in Milwaukee’s Black and Brown communities. I am now grateful to be working in a setting that supports its employees and values input, but I may very well still be at Carmen if educators had a voice and a seat at the table where decisions are made. Some of the most passionate educators I have ever had the pleasure of serving with are still at Carmen and are making the push to unionize — a move that I strongly encourage so these passionate community leaders can continue serving the northern and southern Milwaukee communities we care so much about. Milwaukee is home — let’s support educators in creating a robust and supportive academic community for all its learners.”
Throughout my time at Carmen (Northwest) more and more responsibilities were added to my workload and any concerns on my part about being stressed and overworked were ignored or met with responses along the lines of ‘if you care about your students, you’ll do what’s best for them…’ In addition to this, significantly increasing everyone’s stress, is the current pandemic. Carmen has an acceptable COVID response plan on paper, however it is not followed through in daily practice. Students are regularly seen in the hallways and in classrooms without a mask and there are no consequences for those repeatedly violating this basic safety practice, the school is never cleaned or sanitized, and more and more students are pushed into classrooms making 3 foot distancing an impossibility. While positive case numbers among but students and teachers continued to rise, the leaders of Carmen did nothing but continue to defend their initial policy and insist it was not because of the conditions at the school. Because of the stress of being overworked and the real fear of bringing COVID home to my family members who are older and more at risk, I could no longer continue at Carmen.
When I first found Carmen, I felt such hope for the future. However, after a year and a half working under an administration that alternates between ignoring some of the staff’s concerns and blatantly refusing to address others, I had to resign. The teachers remaining at Carmen are phenomenal instructors with huge hearts for their students and the majority of the mid-level management are doing their best with what they have available. However, those making decisions at the top are neglecting those they are supposed to support, namely the teachers and students. For this reason, I whole-heartedly support the Carmen Workers Collective and the campaign to join the IAM.
As a former employee of the Carmen network, I fully support the Carmen Workers Collective. I have worked in both the Southeast and Northwest high schools and have seen the challenges students and educators face. The school constantly preaches this idea of “closing the achievement gap”, but at the end of the day, the best way to do this is to acquire and maintain good educators. However, this is clearly not something the Network currently prioritizes. Every day teachers are faced with a lack of proper compensation, a lack of communication and transparency, a lack of upheld boundaries, and the narrative that if they aren’t working themselves to the bone, they aren’t working hard enough. This is causing amazing teachers, like myself, to leave en masse. This is why the Carmen Workers Collective is so important for not just the educators, but for the students and the Network as a whole. Once educators can finally gain a seat at the table and have a proper way to fight and bargain for what they need, good educators will stay. Had there been a Union, I may not have left. I don’t want that happening to all the amazing educators who still currently work in the Network. The Carmen Workers Collective is the best option to keep them.