Member Blog Post: Is SDEA Asleep at the Wheel?

Or are we a sleeping GIANT?

I think more and more of us are feeling that sinking sensation in our stomachs when we think about the position SDEA is in right now.  Last year at this time, almost half of the 1,300 layoffs had been recalled.  This year, not a single one of the 1,700 layoffs have been recalled.  The district is obviously playing hardball in an attempt to coerce us into opening our contracts which means they must truly believe that they have a shot at making it happen.  For the first time in my teaching career, it feels like the District is winning and we are about to lose everything we have fought for over the years.

Maybe it feels this way because by this time last spring, SDEA had organized and conducted over 40 rallies.  How many have we had this year?  It seems almost inevitable that unless something changes, SDEA is heading for either massive contract concessions, massive layoffs, or possibly even both.  I, for one, refuse to sit idly by and wait to see what happens with my salary or my healthcare or my friends’ jobs or my children’s school next year.  I have dedicated my life to teaching my students and my children how to be articulate, critical thinkers so that they can stand up and speak out when the time comes.  Well, the time has come!
Back in March when I asked about our organizing plan at the SDEA General Membership Meeting at Lincoln, I was told that we had all been trained and empowered to organize for ourselves at the site level and that we all knew what to do.  I don’t speak Union, but I figured it was safe to translate this answer as: You’re gonna have to do it yourself.  So I gathered some colleagues and we got to work.

Specific actions we can take now:

1) Send emails and make phone calls.  Find your voice!  If we won’t speak up for ourselves and our schools, how can we expect anyone else to speak up?  Be specific and ask Board members to change their vote.  Go to The Breakfast Club blog to download flyers, talking points, and contact info for the School Board members.  Make it a goal to hand these out to five other people, and ask them to do the same.  Twenty minutes of your time could make the difference between a laid off teacher getting recalled or not.
2) Recruit friends, neighbors, and family to send emails and make phone calls.  And then follow up with them to make sure that they did.  You have A-S-K to G-E-T!  Bring up the school cuts in conversation.  We all feel awkward sometimes about openly discussing our employment and paycheck.  But you can either talk about it now and try to stop the cuts from happening, or you can talk about it later when you are complaining to your friends and family.  Let’s have the awkward conversations now so that we can shape the future of our schools.

3) Schedule an accountability session with your school’s Board member.  Sit down with the Board members, present our arguments and evidence, and ask them to change their vote.  Ask for help to do this if you need it!  We have many amazing members that can step up and help.

4) Join forces with another school to distribute flyers.  We are creating flyers that will explain to students’ families why cuts to our schools are unnecessary.  But a piece of paper is only as good as the conversation that goes with it.  Let’s partner up between secondary and elementary so that we can hand out flyers and have conversations with families before and after school when they are dropping off or picking up.  Plus, the media seems to actually show up for these types of events!

5) Spread the word with emails and social media.  Forward this email to your friends at other schools.  Ask them what they are doing to fight back against the cuts.  Like The Breakfast Club San Diego page on Facebook and subscribe to our blog to receive updates.

This is what works and what our union needs to be doing:1)  Directly targeting School Board members.  With a few simple votes, 5 people have made life miserable for over 2,500 people (the total certificated and classified layoff number).  Extra meetings, layoff hearings, stress, anxiety, and self-doubt about working for SDUSD have been inflicted on hardworking educators and support staff.  And thousands more are affected at the site level and in our community by next year’s uncertainty.  But there have been no direct consequences for the people that actually cast the votes that created this situation.  It is time to unify and place the Board members on the receiving end of the consequences of their vote.  It is time we channel our frustration, anger, and sadness at the Board and force them to walk with us down the road they have chosen for our schools.

Last year, SDEA members scheduled and conducted accountability sessions with Board members.  We didn’t just stand outside Board meetings with picket signs and passive-aggressively hope that they heard our chants and changed their minds.  We spoke face to face with them outside of the district office and presented our arguments with supporting evidence.  It is much easier to ignore a faceless, distant group than a person sitting across the table from you.  We needed to sit down in small group sessions with our Board members two months ago.  But luckily, we still have time to fix this!  Get a core group on your campus and call your Board member to schedule a chat.  Please contact us through our blog if you would like help.

2)  Logical arguments with supporting evidence.  I want to “Save Our Schools” as much as the next person, but slogans do not change minds.  Logical arguments supported by facts/history/data/reason do.  We work for a district with a decades-long history of systematically underpaying its teachers, threatening its teachers, and laying off its teachers and classified staff.  The San Diego Union Tribune recently published an article that stated that during 2010-2011, our district had over $95 MILLION in its general reserve fund.  This is the same year that the district pled poverty to the Board and slashed our classified staff to the bone.  Our Board members need to be reminded that they are listening to the District that Cried Wolf when they listen to SDUSD budget predictions.

3) Public outreach and media coverage –starting with Teacher Appreciation Day.  If a protest chant falls from the lips of SDEA members at a rally and there is no media there to hear it, does it still make a sound?  NO!  We can have all the logical arguments and evidence in the world, but if our message doesn’t reach our audience then our efforts are in vain.  (And I *totally* had some good signs at the May Day rally, yo.)  My action group has started a blog and Facebook page to help spread our message and unify educators, school staff, community members, families, students, and whoever else would like to help stop the evisceration of our public schools.  We need to have conversations with our friends, neighbors, and anyone else that will listen and then have them take action and tell Board members to change their votes.  This Teacher Appreciation Day, ask for emails instead of earrings!  Our students’ families are our biggest allies.  We need them to know that their children are being short-changed while SDUSD has tens of millions of dollars squirrel away in the general reserve fund and while it continues to pay for expensive district-level programs and administrators.

4) Stay united.  What the heck does it mean if a bubble is over your school?  How does a new teacher not get a pink slip?  What is skipping?  But more importantly, why are we even having these conversations?!?  This has got to be the easiest way for the district to divide us and keep us arguing amongst ourselves.  In my eleven years of teaching, I have never heard of the skipping method that is being used in the layoffs.  And I’ll admit, the first time it was explained to me, skipping made sense.  My kids are in a Spanish immersion program, of course those teachers should be protected from layoffs in order to preserve the program, right?  Wrong!  Thankfully, I noticed that I had walked into the district’s trap.  We are only stronger than the district when we stand together!  SDUSD has the money.  Do not let them scare, intimidate, or distract us by pitting us against each other.  Do not take your eyes off the prize or it will be snatched away from all of us.  Last year this wasn’t an issue because SDEA squashed it from the very start.  What happened this year?  Is it too late to correct our course on this issue?

It’s Time to Wake the Sleeping Giant!!!

We need to get moving now because we only have a few weeks left to turn the tide before the June deadline and summer sends us on our way.  I do NOT want to get some random phone call or email from SDEA in June asking for my opinion on concessions.  I want our business handled now!  SDEA needs to keep its commitment to preserving our contract, and SDUSD and the Board needs to stop throwing our students and staff into a constant state of turmoil and upheaval.  Look at your calendar and schedule your actions now!
Wonder Teacher Powers… Activate!!!
I know we are all busy and about to get busier as we enter the homestretch for the end of the school year.  But it is important, now more than ever, that we dig deep and tap into our inner superpowers to fight the proposed cuts.  I didn’t get a pink slip this year, but that doesn’t mean layoffs and reductions don’t affect me.  And really, it’s not about me.  It’s about the future of public education in San Diego.  It’s time we dust off our Super Teacher capes and start fighting back.  It’s time we get to work.
I look forward to seeing you online and in real life!
Together, we are stronger!
Shane Parmely
Teacher, Garfield and Twain High Schools

One thought on “Member Blog Post: Is SDEA Asleep at the Wheel?

  1. Pingback: NEW: Association for Union Democracy Publishes The Breakfast Club’s Story! « The Breakfast Club Action Group

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