We Must Support Denali

During the week of January 9th, teachers, school leaders and families were informed that Summit Public Schools plans to close Denali High School and Denali Middle School, both in Sunnyvale, at the end of this school year. This decision will become final at the June 2023 Summit Board meeting.

We are devastated by the disruption that this news brings to the community of students, families, and staff. Summit’s plan to close these schools will be harmful to our greater Summit community and especially to our young people who have been developing deep relationships with their friends and teachers. With Summit’s ample reserves, we are confused why Summit Public Schools would impose this decision without community or teacher input. Summit Public Schools owes it to our students and families to keep Denali open!

Unite Summit, our teachers union, is appalled by the lack of transparency about this planned closure. We have many questions as to why and how Summit came to this decision and we want to make sure that Summit Public Schools is held accountable to the families and teachers, and that they are making the best decisions for all students. Summit Public School management has refused to acknowledge their contractual and legal obligation to meet with our union over Denali’s closure as well as a variety of other issues that have come up this year. Call on Summit Public Schools to follow the law and bargain with Unite Summit!

Families were notified of the closure in a last minute Q&A session on Wednesday, January 11th that many were unable to attend. The Summit Board also has added a special board meeting added to January 23rd from 1 to 3pm to listen to the public’s concerns. Unite Summit is deeply concerned by the intentional lack of access that these meetings provide to families, teachers, and other stakeholders by having their Board meeting during the work day. We demand a meeting of the school board that accommodates the times and needs of our most affected community members.

This is an absolute failure of Summit’s organizational leadership to adequately serve our communities. While you and your student may not be directly impacted by Denali’s closure, the manner in which the decision was made should be cause for concern for all of our schools. Read our FAQ for more information.

If you would like to support the Denali community, please take the following actions:

If you have any other questions, send an email to UniteSummitTeachers@gmail.com.

Election Results and Next SPS BOD Meeting

Election Results

A huge shout out to everyone who ran for union leadership for the 22-23 school year!

Below are the election results:

President: Justin Kim (K2 MS)
Vice President: Fuchsia Spring (K2 HS)
Treasurer: Sam Williams (Prep)

Site Reps
Denali MS: Allison Lee
Denali HS: Maxine Cheney
Everest: Dean Caudill
Expeditions: Hannah Creutzfeldt
K2 HS: Timothy Hoffelder
K2 MS: Nicole McMath
Prep: Jordyn Doyle
Shasta: Henry Cooper
Tahoma: Marcus Kevorkyan
Tam HS: LaShante Scott
Tam MS: Patrick Wachter

There will be many other ways to be involved in building our union next year, including on two committees created by our contract: the professional development committee and the grievance committee. If you are interested in being involved, please reach out to UniteSummitTeachers@gmail.com

Summit Board Meeting

The next Summit Board meeting is Thursday, June 16 at noon on zoom. The agenda is here and includes approving the Unite Summit contract.

Details of our TA and voting to approve our contract

We are so excited to share our tentative collective bargaining agreement with you and begin the ratification (voting) process. Our journey to this CBA has been long and difficult — the closure of Rainier, fighting the pay freeze, and the pandemic were just a few of the obstacles we faced. Despite high teacher turnover, we were able to keep our union going because new teachers quickly saw both the things that needed improvement and the potential of our schools. We fought for our union and our contract for over three years motivated by our love for our students and our school communities. While we didn’t win everything we wanted or deserved, we are extremely proud of this CBA. Both our bargaining team and site reps enthusiastically recommend voting YES to ratify our agreement.

We’ve settled this contract because of the hard work teachers past and present did to talk with their coworkers and school communities. Every petition you signed, every meeting you attended, and every action we held made a difference. We know that when we are unified and fearless in our advocacy, we can achieve great things.

This contract is also a recognition of teacher voice by Summit’s Home Office. We hope it allows us to turn a new page in our relationship and that we can work productively and collaboratively to continue to improve our schools.

Tentative Collective Bargaining Agreement

There is a lot to absorb about our new contract, so we’ve created two resources.

First, a summary of all of the articles in our agreement. This is the TLDR version of our contract.

Second, you can read all of the actual contract language here. Please note that this is not quite final; we are waiting on a few things from Summit (such as the appendices) but wanted to share this with our members ASAP.

A couple of highlights:

  • New standards to support English language learners, including provisions for class size limits of 17 for middle school and 19 for high school English language learners.
  • Job security, including layoff language based on objective factors and a probationary period after which you will be asked back every year unless you are terminated for cause or poor performance. Summit must follow the discipline article to terminate you and you have the right to appeal your termination to a neutral arbitrator.
  • Four weeks fully paid parental leave
  • A 40-hour workweek for teachers that includes duty-free lunches.
  • Automatic “step” increases; your ED can no longer deny you a raise.
  • Provisions that will help to create greater mental health supports on Summit’s campuses.

Ratification Vote

We will begin voting on the contract May 18. We will hold meetings at each school site so that members of the bargaining team can present the CBA and answer questions. After the meeting, you will vote on the contract. Please look out for information from your site rep about when your school meeting will be held.

Please note that you will need to sign up for union membership (dues) in order to vote. Dues of charter and district educators from across CA paid for our nearly 4 year journey to start a union and win a first contract. Now, we get to pay it forward to help the next nonunion charter school that wants to organize! Dues also pay for our CTA staff, legal support, and more.

Union Leadership Elections

A reminder that we will have union leadership elections before the end of the school year. The elections committee will send out more details soon.

Our terms are one year so there will be an election for all positions — president, vice president, treasurer, and site reps. This is an exciting time for our union as we work on growing our strength and implementing our contract! We encourage you to be a part of it and run for an office!

An Open Letter to Summit’s Funders

Today, we sent the following letter to Summit’s funders in order to notify them of what Summit teachers are advocating for. Summit receives millions of dollars a year from some of the biggest names in philanthropy — including the Gates Foundation, the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, and the Charles Koch Foundation — but almost none of that money directly benefits our students. These funders should know what’s really happening in our schools, from the people who are in the classroom every day.

Dear Funder,

As the union that represents teachers at Summit schools in California, we believe in the mission and model of Summit Public Schools: to ensure the success and preparation of our students in whichever pathway they choose. It was why we chose to create a union, Unite Summit, in January of 2019. Unfortunately, it has been our experience that, too often, Summit does not live up to its mission and model due to high teacher turnover, lack of supports for students, and a disregard for teacher voice.

For the past two years, we have been negotiating our first union contract with Summit in an effort to better support our students, our teachers, and our schools. Unfortunately, Summit has yet to agree to key basic working conditions that ensure teacher voice is protected. After protracted negotiations, we have reached fact finding, the final step in the bargaining process before a potential strike. 

Striking is a measure of last resort.  But after over two years of contract negotiations and an ongoing teacher retention crisis, we know it is time for Summit to settle a fair contract now. 95% of teachers voted “yes” to authorize a strike if necessary to win a fair contract now, with 89% of teachers participating in the vote. We know this was not a vote that teachers took lightly.

As our teacher retention report shows, there is a serious and urgent problem with teacher retention at our schools. Only 30% of the teachers employed when we filed to unionize in January of 2019 are still employed at Summit. This year alone, nearly 10% of our teaching staff have quit midyear due to constant organizational change, overwhelming responsibilities, and lack of consistent support to do this job successfully. 

This crisis must be addressed. And Summit management has the opportunity to do so by settling a fair contract now. We have been clear about what settling our contract will take; what we are asking for is fair and reasonable. 

We would love to have an opportunity to speak with you more about these very serious issues. We believe current and former funders should be fully informed about what is happening at our schools — and how, working together, we can make them better.  Please let us know when you are available. We can meet in person or via zoom. 


Janine Peñafort, Eric Jones, and Justin Kim

Unite Summit Leadership

Support Unite Summit in Winning a Fair Contract

Here are a few ways you can support Unite Summit as we fight for a fair first contract.

  • Sign our petition to the Summit Public Schools Board asking for a fair contract now.
  • Unions and other supportive organizations can pass our Unite Summit Strike Fund Resolution.
    • Please send completed resolutions to UniteSummitTeachers@gmail.com
  • If you are a Summit alumni, sign our alumni letter.
  • Make an individual pledge to our strike fund.
    • We are so thankful for the unions, individuals, and organizations who have shown incredible solidarity by pledging $20,000 already. While we hope to settle our contract in fact finding, we are also preparing to support our teachers who need it in the event of a strike.
  • Follow us on Instagram — @Unite_Summit
    • If you have a video or picture of support you’d like to share, please email it to UniteSummitTeachers@gmail.com.

Solidarity With Unite Summit!

President E. Toby Boyd of the California Teachers Association expresses support and solidarity for Unite Summit. We are proud members of the 310,000-educators-strong CTA!
Last year, legendary labor leader Dolores Huerta spoke at a rally in support of Unite Summit and other charter educators fighting for first contracts. “¡Si se puede! ¡Que viva los maestros! We’re going to win this fight!”
Teachers and instructional coaches at Downtown College Prep in San Jose, represented by South Bay Educators United, support Unite Summit. As fellow charter educators, they know how important it is to have a strong union contract.
High Tech Education Collective in San Diego supports Unite Summit!

The best way for Summit to show teacher appreciation? Settle a fair contract now!

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

These past few years have been some of the most challenging with teaching virtual school, returning to in-person learning, and responding to the needs of our students in the best way that we can given the conditions – all while trying to tend to our own needs and wellbeing.

Unfortunately, Summit management’s displays of teacher appreciation this week ring hollow. If Summit management truly appreciated teachers, they would settle a fair contract that makes our jobs sustainable, respects teacher voices, and provides students with the supports they need.

There are 3 WAYS you can show your appreciation for Summit teachers this week:

  • Sign our petition to the Summit Public Schools Board asking for a fair contract now.
  • If you are a Summit alumni, sign our alumni letter.
  • Make an individual pledge to our strike fund. We are so thankful for the unions, individuals, and organizations who have shown incredible solidarity by pledging $20,000 already. While we hope to settle our contract in fact-finding, we are also preparing to support our teachers who need it in the event of a strike.

Art Build

We had a wonderful art build in Oakland this past weekend! Thank you to all of the teachers, alumni, students, families, and supporters who gathered together in community and love for our schools.

Teachers, please connect with your site reps to get art. We will be using the signs we created over the past two weekends on May 10th, the day of our fact finding hearing and, if necessary, during a strike.

School Walk-Ins on Tuesday, May 10th

Join us at your local Summit school at 7:45am this upcoming Tuesday, May 10th! Teachers will be hosting walk-ins across Summit school sites throughout the Bay Area in support of our Unite Summit bargaining team who will be presenting the fact-finding hearing – the last step before Summit teachers are legally allowed to strike. Reach out to your school’s site rep for more details about your site-specific walk-in!

Follow us on Instagram @Unite_Summit

Art Builds and Negotiations Update

Art Builds!
A reminder that our first strike-ready art build will be this Saturday, April 23 from 10am-2pm at the San Jose Teachers Association offices (5444 Thornwood Drive San Jose, CA 95123).

We have also confirmed the location of our Oakland art build on Saturday, April 30 from 10am-2pm at the Oakland Education Association offices (272 E. 12th St., Oakland, CA 94606).


We are so excited to launch this in-person community event and we would love for as many folks from our school communities (and beyond!) to attend as possible, from those who are artistically inclined to those who want to grow in their creativity and want to do so in community. Kids are welcome! So please join us! And, to keep our community safe, please wear a mask.

Fact Finding Update
The Public Employment Relations Board has appointed a “neutral” (see here for a reminder of the steps of the process). This begins the 30 day period for the release of the fact-finding report, after which we can legally strike. We are hoping to settle our contract during the fact finding process — our remaining demands are extremely reasonable — but are also continuing to prepare for a potential strike. We will keep you updated as the process continues.

Strike Vote TODAY, March 31, Cesar Chavez Day!

Last Thursday, after two year and over 170 hours in bargaining and mediation sessions, we were released into the next step of the bargaining process. When an agreement is not reached with the help of a mediator, the process moves into fact-finding. While we have made more progress in the past two months than we have over the past two years, there are still some outstanding issues that we are still far apart on.
These include:

  • Probationary Period. We have proposed a 2 year probationary period, with the option for an Executive Director to add a third year. Summit wants a 3 year probationary period, with the option for the Executive Director to add a fourth year.  All district schools and most union charter schools have a two year probationary period. During a probationary period, a teacher can be fired for any or no reason. After their probationary period is over, a teacher can only be fired for cause (ie the member poses a safety risk to students) or performance and there is a clear, transparent, and fair process to do so. We fail to see how Summit’s proposed lengthy probationary period shows respect for teachers or helps with retention. 
  • Management Rights.  Summit wants the power to suspend our contract in cases of emergency. Not only is this a waiver of our rights under the law, we also have two examples to demonstrate why this power is unnecessary. 
    The first is the pay freeze from 2020. Summit claimed there was a fiscal emergency and that if our union didn’t agree to a pay freeze, they would lay off teachers. Only a short time later, Summit said there wasn’t a fiscal emergency after all. We refuse to put our members through that situation again. 
    The second is our response to COVID 19. Summit has said the right to suspend our contract is critical for responding to emergencies like the pandemic. However, at the start of the pandemic, our union had the right to bargain over working conditions and we were able to quickly make changes to serve our students. We believe having teachers be partners in decision-making — especially during an emergency — is critical for providing the best environment for our students. 
  • English Learners. We are so excited that, after two years of bargaining, Summit has added support for English Learners into their contract proposals. Summit management has recognized how important this issue is to our members. Unfortunately, we believe Summit’s proposed student-teacher ratio for EL classes is still too high, especially given the past few years and the lack of services they received. We know Summit has the money to provide EL students appropriate class size. 
  • Term and Ratification Bonus. The final two items are about when the contract would go into effect and a bonus for ratifying our contract. Summit does not want the contract to actually start until July 1, 2022. We don’t think it makes sense to wait. Charter school contracts typically go into effect on the date they are ratified (when both sides vote to accept the contract). We also believe teachers deserve a ratification bonus, especially given what we’ve all been through during the past two years.

Unfortunately, instead of acting with urgency to address the teacher retention crisis and provide appropriate services for English Learners, Summit’s CEO Diane Tavenner informed our Unite Summit bargaining team on March 18 that she was leaving the country, and for the next 17 days would be unavailable to even respond to emails and would not delegate authority to anyone else on Summit management’s bargaining team to make decisions while she is gone.

This is unacceptable. We cannot allow SPS management to continue perpetuating the teacher retention crisis that our schools suffer from each year by not addressing the needs of our students and valuing our educators for all the work and dedication they pour into our schools. We need a fair contract now.

On March 31, Cesar Chavez Day, Summit teachers will be voting to authorize a strike. This is a serious decision that teachers do not take lightly.  We have informed Summit management’s bargaining team what it will take to settle our contract and we remain available to negotiate. But we have gone two years without a contract. Our students and our schools cannot afford to wait any longer.

To learn more about how you can support Summit teachers in our fight for a fair contract, please visit tinyurl.com/SupportUniteSummit

Doubling of internal sub coverage, mediation update

Dear Summit Staff,

You have been the frontline workers to provide our students with a safe learning environment, and we want to sincerely thank you for the tireless effort you have given to our communities. Currently, as COVID cases have risen again, we know you have heightened concerns over the safety of students, their families, your own families, and yourselves. Acknowledging these rapidly changing circumstances, SPS and Unite Summit have been meeting and working collaboratively to respond and best meet the needs of our school communities — we are pleased to share some updates from the past month.

COVID Meetings

From our meetings with Diane and Kelly, we received clarity around testing, access to masks, and threshold for school closures.

  • Sites are continuing to test 25% of unvaccinated students and staff, as well as anyone who is showing any COVID symptoms. Since the Omicron surge, site-based testing supplies have been limited, but SPS expressed that school sites are in a good place with their supply and demand.
  • Staff are entitled to 2 PPE masks (surgical masks and KN95 respirators) per week when requested.
  • The threshold for school closures is 25% of teachers are out, with no external sub coverage and no deans/directors available (admin subbing a class would count as unavailable), or by the order of a county health official.

For any specific site-based concerns, we encourage you to communicate with your site-based admin and your site rep.

Internal Sub Coverage Pay Increase

In response to the growing demand for sub coverage this year and in an effort to demonstrate an appreciation for the time teachers continue to invest in their students and supporting their colleagues, we have agreed upon increasing internal sub coverage pay to double the current rates. Teachers who have subbed this year will receive retroactive pay for all classes they have covered as long as they have submitted the SY22 Internal Coverage Payment Request form by Monday, January 31st, 2022. Doubled internal sub coverage pay will continue until the end of this school year.

Mediation Updates

Last week we had another mediation session and came to a tentative agreement on class size.

Highlights include:

  • No teacher will have an average class size above 29. If this average is exceeded, there is a formula to compensate teachers for each additional student above the average
  • Mentor groups are capped at 28 students
  • Education Specialist caseloads are capped at 27 students

We’re excited to have reached this tentative agreement with Summit. (Reminder: none of these tentative agreements go into effect until we have agreed to the entire contract.) It is in alignment with Summit’s small school model, allows flexibility in scheduling, and brings some relief to teachers, such as 9th grade teachers and Spanish teachers, who have traditionally faced higher class sizes.

We also reached two tentative agreements back in December on union rights and recognition.

While we’re encouraged by these tentative agreements, we continue to be deeply concerned about the amount of time it has taken to get them. At least 15 teachers Summit-wide have quit since the start of the year. This startling number represents an intensification of Summit’s teacher retention crisis — only 32% of teachers currently working at Summit have been with our schools for more than three years. Summit must treat the teacher retention crisis like the serious problem it is and work with urgency to settle our contract.

Testing Resources

As a reminder, in addition to testing in our schools, there are also increasing resources for accessing rapid tests. You can go to https://special.usps.com/testkits to get 4 rapid antigen tests per household via the US mail. Additionally, insurance companies are now required to reimburse or provide eight tests per month per person on your health plan.  

Career Matrix

Please, if you haven’t done so already, fill out this short, five minute Unite Summit career matrix survey to help us in our contract negotiations with Summit. We want to hear from you — what will make you more likely to come back next year? What will make you less likely to come back next year?

Unite Summit Solidarity Week a Success!

Thank you to everyone who participated in our Unite Summit solidarity week by wearing their t-shirts, stickers, and buttons, and signing our petition in support of our contract demands – almost 90% of teachers signed our petition to the SPS Board (if you didn’t get a chance to, there is still time! Contact your site rep). Follow us on Instagram for more great pictures – @Unite_Summit.

Last week, we presented our petition at the SPS Board meeting. While Summit purposefully continues to schedule its board meetings during the school day, making them largely inaccessible to Summit stakeholders, over two dozen teachers were able to join the meeting during their prep periods and lunch times, in a great show of solidarity.

We know that we will continue to need to put pressure on Summit to settle a contract that our students, our schools, and our teachers deserve. Look out for more exciting opportunities during the next month to show your support!

Clearing up Misinformation 
We’ve recently heard that some site admin are claiming that certain things can or cannot be done because of “the union.” While site leaders may not be intentionally spreading misinformation, many of their claims are incorrect. If you’re in doubt about something you’ve been told, you can check our website (all of our existing agreements with Summit are posted here), check in with a member of our bargaining team, or simply ask your site admin to show you exactly where their claim is in writing. One of the many reasons we are united for a fair contract is so that we can have a clear, mutually agreed upon agreement about important topics like hours and job expectations.