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The San Diego teachers union plans to fight the firing of a teacher who spearheaded union efforts at Tubman Village Charter School, where teachers became unionized nearly a year ago.

The battle is an unusual one because while Tubman is unionized, its teachers have yet to hammer out a contract. That leaves them in labor limbo.

Jonathon Mello, an organizer for the San Diego Education Association, said the union plans to file charges with a state board, arguing the teacher is being discriminated against as a labor leader and that her work terms were changed unilaterally.

Principal Lidia Scinski wrote in an email to us that “Tubman doesn’t conduct business in public,” but added, “I am confident that the school’s actions are in compliance with the law.”

The firing goes to the heart of why Tubman is unionizing and why unions argue their protections are needed. When Tubman teachers joined up with the union in January, they said they wanted to be able to air concerns without worrying about retribution from the principal.

Unlike a teacher at a unionized public school, who would get to argue their case before the school board and a panel, the Tubman teacher had no chance to contest the decision beforehand because charters don’t have to follow the same labor rules.

A November memo from the principal stated that “no cause must be provided,” though it added that the teacher had performed poorly and had not improved despite attempts to help her.

Scinski later said that she did not need Tubman board approval to dismiss the teacher. Mello pointed out that the Tubman charter, which lays out how the school works, says only that the principal will “recommend appropriate action” when employees perform poorly.

Charter schools are publicly funded but independently run, free to set their own policies separate from the school district. Most are not unionized, though there are some exceptions in San Diego.

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter:

Emily Alpert

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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