Wednesday was the first SDEA Rep. Council meeting of the year, as well as the first day for teachers to report back to work for the 2012-2013 school year. Though it was an exhausting day, many ARs and CRs made their way down to SDEA for this meeting.
Here are the headlines (read below for details):
- An AR requested that Bylaw changes to make ratification votes more secure be placed on the September Rep. Council agenda, and SDEA President Bill Freeman agreed.
- Freeman reiterated that all 1372 K-12 teachers laid off last year will be recalled, but the the 40 ECE teachers will not be.
- SDEA rolled out the fall campaign to vote YES on Prop. 30 and NO on Prop. 32 (remember, we take an 8% pay cut if 30 fails so GOTV).
- SDEA also supports Marne Foster and John Lee Evans (yes, you read that right) for School Board, as well as the Prop. Z school bond.
- The SDEA budget and committee structure will now newly include Professional Development, meaning that union resources will now be diverted away from union organizing and towards teaching us how to be teachers.
ARs were told ahead of time that this was a special Rep. Council intended to kick off the crucial fall campaign. We expected that the meeting would be short and to the point so that we could go back to our sites and start the campaign. Unfortunately, it was more than an hour into the meeting before we got anywhere near the fall campaign, and many ARs had already left the unairconditioned, sweltering room.
Before the “call to order” there was a Q&A that was cut short. One member asked about class sizes at the elementary level. She was wondering why, if the TA was ratified, did they still have overcrowded class sizes. This is a good question, since many members voted yes on the TA to avoid this very situation from occurring. Bill answered that schools are still waiting to figure out how many students are actually enrolled and that the overcrowding should be fixed later.
Roosevelt AR Bobbe Abts asked how to get items on the next Rep. Council agenda. Freeman responded by telling her to simply let him know prior to the next Rep. Council meeting and he would make sure it was on the agenda. The item that Abts was asking to have placed on the September Rep. Council agenda was changing the SDEA Bylaws to ensure fair elections for future contract ratification votes. If you read the SDEABylaws as well as the SDEAStandingRules you will find much information about elections in reference to Board members, but scant information about ratification votes. [By the way, these two documents are a good read if you have the time, and they will help you understand many of the topics discussed in Rep Council and SDEA Board Meetings]. The concerns Abts brought up came from concerns members voiced to the Breakfast Club during the TA ratification vote in June, and are as follows:
- Not using an external, signed, envelope when submitting ballots.
- Lack of 24 hour supervision of the ballot box.
- No way for absentee voters to submit their vote.
As MANY members expressed discontent with the process for the ratification vote, we hope that Freeman will keep his word and add these items to the next Rep. Council agenda so that we can ensure nothing but fair elections that give ALL members a chance to voice their opinions on such critical issues such as negotiating a NEW CONTRACT. On a side note, SDEA leadership finally admitted on Wednesday that it was indeed, a whole new contract that was negotiated, NOT just an “MOU” that left our contract “closed.” Breakfast Club members repeatedly asked SDEA leadership last spring if this negotiation opened the contract, and time and time again SDEA leadership swore up and down that negotiating the TA did NOT open the contract. Once again, our group of vigilant educators who conducted close readings of the documents were correct in their assessment.
Next, Marne Foster, an SDEA-endorsed School Board candidate who was not listed on the agenda that was sent out to ARs in advance of Rep. Council (as the Bylaws require), was introduced and proceeded to give a campaign speech for her Board seat. Marne is an inspiring and articulate educator, mother, and product of SDUSD and this was her second time speaking to Rep Council. We gladly took home several of her campaign signs.
Finally Freeman started the meeting by stating that he had many important agenda items and that the meeting needed to move at a quick pace so that all agenda items could be addressed. Reps were given less than sixty seconds to read over the meeting minutes from the June Rep Council before a motion, second, and vote were held to approve them, so we finished reading them later. This was the only fast thing about the meeting.
Freman next introduced all the SDEA staff members. Slowly. One at a time. With applause for each. Like contestants on the Price Is Right. Then came a series of announcements from Freeman regarding a variety of other possibly important, non-agendized items:
The announcements included the following:
- All 1372 teachers laid off in 2011-2012 will be recalled at the latest by September 30, excluding the 40 ECE teachers who are funded by a different budget. (We are still not sure why SDEA thinks the funding source should determine whether or not we fight for our members’ jobs.)
- The SDEA Board voted to endorse the Prop. Z bond over the summer.
- CTA and NEA will fund SDEA’s charter school initiative to continue unionizing charter schools.
- There will be several new committees formed, including a new professional development committee. We hope that during this time of immense economic crisis, the union doesn’t start spending our dues dollars, which should be spent on defending our jobs and our contract, on teaching us how to do “small group instruction.”
- There will be an SDEA Board seat election that will be announced at the next Rep. Council.
- CTA State Council delegates will be required to report out at Rep. Council meetings.
- Freeman encouraged members to attend the SDEA Board meetings.
- Freeman encouraged members to attend the SDUSD Board Meeting this Tuesday, September 4, to support the District’s decision to terminate Brenda Campbell from her position as Area Superintendent.
- The Fall Leadership conference (open to all ARs, CRs and site activists) will be held on September 15.
- A survey on furlough days preference was included in the Rep. Council packet. However, the District has already put our furlough days on the master academic calendar for the year, so we weren’t sure about the purpose of surveying educators now. SDEA could have easily already done this via Survey Monkey over the summer so our input was included before, not after, the District unilaterally made the decision.
Next, CTA President Dean Vogel spoke for over 20 minutes about the importance of getting out the votes for Prop 30 (YES) and 32 (NO). It was curious that after rushing through the first item, so much time would be given to speeches. What started as an inspirational speech, soon began to feel like a lecture in the swelteringly-hot-and-completely-devoid-of-fans room.
Finally, more than an hour later, those of us who were still there got to see the reason the meeting the reason was called in the first place: the Prop. 30 and 32 campaign roll-out. SDEA Field Organizer Morgan Thornberry gave a thorough PowerPoint presentation explaining each proposition and giving clear reasons why educators should vote YES on Prop 30, and NO on Prop 32. Reps were given flyers to take back to our sites to distribute and discuss at the first SDEA meeting of the school year.
It was then near 6:00 and a good portion of the reps had already left when Freeman brought up what we thought should have been a more pressing issue: the matter of giving incumbent School Board member John Lee Evans our “friendly endorsement”. Yes, you read that correctly, the SDEA Board asked us to endorse John Lee Evans, the School Board President who voted year after year to issue an accumulated 3,000+ pink slips. The School Board President who conceded NOTHING from the District’s side when “negotiating” our Tentative Agreement. The same man who was visibly giddy when announcing that the District had finally triumphed over SDEA by getting us to open up a closed contract and concede our hard earned and fairly bargained pay increases — while at the same time buying iPads with full data plans for administrators. Freeman openly bragged that he had been called up by Evans the day before and how they chatted about Evans voting to get rid of Brenda Campbell, implicitly in exchange for SDEA’s endorsement.
Needless to say, we were not in favor of this endorsement. Why does SDEA need to endorse either candidate? Freeman said that Evans is the lesser of two evils. Mark Powell, Evans’ opponent, is a far worse candidate according to Freeman. During the discussion, CR Shane Parmely asked if SDEA had vetted John Lee Evans by going through the normal Political Involvement Committee (PIC) panel process. This process would have required each candidate seeking an endorsement to complete a written portion in which they answer questions before being interviewed and questioned up-close by a panel. Vice President Lindsay Burningham responded that yes, SDEA did indeed go through this process with Evans last spring.
We later emailed Anthony Saavedra, the SDEA Field Organizer assigned to SDEA’s political procedures, to confirm the date of this PIC interview and get meeting minutes and or notes that proved her statement. We didn’t receive an answer to our questions from Saavedra**, but according to PIC panel members, Evans did not, in fact, go through the SDEA PIC process in the spring, so we don’t know why Burningham said that he did. Even though this is only a “friendly endorsement” it seems to us that Evans is anything but friendly to teachers and our union. Regardless of the technicalities, members should have had an opportunity to vet him and then tell the union leadership what we think, not the other way around. The motion passed (though nowhere near unanimously) and SDEA now officially endorses John Lee Evans. (**While we did not receive an answer to the questions we emailed to Saavedra, we did receive a response: “Your request has been forwarded to SDEA leadership, who will be able to follow up with you.” Why is the SDEA staffer responsible for the PIC panel suddenly unable to answer a question about when the panel interviewed Evans without checking with SDEA leadership? We continue to await “follow up” from “SDEA leadership.”)
Next Treasurer Manuel Gomez went over the budget which is to be reviewed by members and voted on at the next Rep. Council. The Bylaws state that this should have been done no later than the last Rep. Council meeting of the year (that would have been the June meeting). This year, there will be an increase in funds devoted to trainings so that CTA can hold professional development for us. Freeman mentioned that teachers wanted trainings for reading and writing workshops. We were again, confused by this and wondered who in the world would ever request such trainings from the union. The summer organizing and contract enforcement trainings for ARs were cancelled, which seem more like the sort of training a union should offer. I’m sure that many new ARs would like to attend trainings on grievance procedures and the like, rather than learn how to use “accountable talk” with students or whatever Freeman thinks we need to do better in our classrooms. There was no mention as to when those types of trainings will be held. In fact, there was no welcome to new ARs at all, or any instruction on how to navigate a Rep. Council meeting. Maybe all the new ARs attended an orientation session (we only saw about 12 at ours) but it would have been nice to have a few words of welcome for us.
It was an interesting first official Rep. Council for us. We hope that more people speak up to voice their opinions and not be intimidated by Freeman stating that the agenda needs to be rushed through in the future. Our voices are important. We represent our sites and our opinions need to be heard. That is the point of these meetings. SDEA is supposed to be a democracy where questions are allowed, participation is encouraged, and opposing views can be heard and debated.
The next meeting will be September 19, and we hope to see you there!
—Emily Neidhart, Association Representative