SDEA Board Report 9/12—SDEA Gets Nicer to District, District Continues to Play Hardball with SDEA

The Headlines:

  • SDEA Board votes to give $15,000 to John Lee Evans (that’s $100 per member he RIFed last year!)
  • District refuses to honor class size contract language
  • Board votes to rejoin joint health and welfare benefits committee with District, despite our benefits being “locked up” for two more years
  • Board continues to explore governance document changes that will allow them to operate with less accountability to members and fewer restrictions
  • Bill Freeman reiterates that all K-12 educators will be recalled by Sep. 30

— Jointly written by Rosemary Pang (TRACE) and Shane Parmely (Garfield HS/Twain HS)

Member Concerns
Shane Parmely (Garfield HS/Twain HS) asked for an update and timeline on the grievance that had been filed about RTI/EXCEED and the extra workload it creates. (Last year at Rep. Council then-SDEA Secretary Lindsay Burningham and SDEA Field Organizer Jonathon Mello gave a report saying they were pursuing a District-wide workload grievance about the it. Several teachers have asked the BC about the status of the grievance over the last few months.) It turns out that a grievance was never filed because Assistant Superintendent Sid Salazar had sent out a letter last school year stating that RTI would not be mandatory, and that it would not be implemented until this school year. As of yet, there has been no word this school year about requiring teachers to use the time-consuming and buggy software program.

Rosemary Pang (TRACE)  then asked for clarification regarding if, when, and who will need to get an Autism Authorization, and if the district is going to pay for it. It was explained that while the district cannot technically require anyone to get the AA to keep their job, the district can rewrite the teacher’s job description and then the teacher could be excessed for lacking the proper credentials. New SDEA Executive Director Tim Hill said that he would talk with SDEA Field Organizer Abdul Sayid and they will get as much information as they can to share at Rep. Council this Wednesday.  Bill said that he has sent an email requesting information about getting autism training for general education teachers as well and is asking the district to pay for it.

Approval of the Minutes — New Rule: No Copies for Members
As the SDEA Board began to read the minutes, Shane asked for a copy. Minutes have always been available to attending SDEA members. Not this time. SDEA President Bill Freeman said, “No, because they are not approved.” In stark contrast to the last meeting, there were only a couple minor corrections offered by other Board members this time and the minutes were approved within a few minutes. At this point, Bill stood up and walked around the table to hand us copies of the minutes. As he walked over, SDEA Board member Erin Kole stated that she had an “objection” and that we could “look at them but they can’t take them.” Bill asked the attending members to leave the minutes when we left the meeting. Nothing in SDEA’s governance documents say meeting minutes should be kept away from the members. In fact, at previous SDEA Board meetings, Bill promised to start putting the Board agendas and meetings online. That still hasn’t happened. And so the lock-down on SDEA Board transparency towards SDEA members continues.

Governance Documents
Next was a discussion of the SDEA governance documents, but at no time were governance documents ever produced or shared with the Board members or cited during the discussion. Instead, Bill started off by reading from Robert’s Rules of Order (RONR) the passage describing the duties of the Secretary. While interesting, the duties of SDEA’s Secretary are set by our governance documents, not by RONR, no matter how badly Bill Freeman wishes they were.  This was in response to SDEA Secretary Michelle Sanchez’s recent request to be able to do her job as SDEA Secretary according the SDEA governance documents, which includes keeping an accurate membership list. Bill is not allowing this to happen. Instead, he is stating that Michelle can work with SDEA staff Contract Specialist Larry Moreno, who keeps the membership list. Work that, according to our governance documents, belongs to union members, is instead being kept from union members and put in the hands of union staff. The bottom line is that for the first time in SDEA history, the Secretary is being denied a copy of the membership list. (But don’t worry, it looks like they are going to try to change the bylaws as quickly as possible so that everything they want to do will be allowed.)

Bill then spoke about how at the August 28, 2012 SDEA Board meeting, the Board had gone into Executive Session to talk about a so-called “personnel issue” and that an issue had been raised about this. At this point, both SDEA Board members Erin Kole and Dennis Schamp objected and Dennis told Bill that he couldn’t talk about what happened in Executive Session. Bill paused and then said that they had talked about a “member’s views on the action of another member.” As we’ve written previously, member-to-member issues are not “personnel” and so should not be allowed in secret Executive Session. Then Bill stated something about how if something is a matter of interpretation of proceedings and bylaws then is should first go to the SDEA Board of Directors. We don’t know what this was supposed to mean and guests are not allowed to ask clarifying questions but it sounded like a “CYA” for talking about topics in Executive Session that are not covered under the purview of Executive Session. Board members should never be allowed to hide behind the curtain of Executive Session to criticize another SDEA member. That just sounds like a cowardly way to bully someone without having to deal with the public repercussions of your actions.

Propositions 30/32 Organizing Update
Bill and SDEA Board member Iris Anderson, whom SDEA has released from her classroom to work on the fall political campaign, spoke about how they have been going out to school site meetings to share the Prop 30/32 PowerPoint and that their focus has been on schools without AR’s.  During the conversation about Props 30/32, it was very clear that there is a lot of confusion as to what teachers are and are not allowed to do to support the campaign.  Specific information should be forthcoming at Rep Council.  While we think it’s good that Bill and Iris are visiting schools, we are worried that we aren’t seeing the wide-spread, site-based organizing plan that has become the norm over the past several years.  With the importance of Prop. 30 to our students (who will lose a month of school) and our pocketbooks (we will lose a month of pay), we hope to see a dramatic increase in the level of member participation.  Especially after the low attendance at yesterday’s Fall Leadership Conference.  A timeline calling out our planned, organized actions for the time between now and November 6th will hopefully be distributed sometime soon.

During the conversation about how teachers can campaign, SDEA Board member Scott Mullin interjected, “Point of order. We need to direct our comments to the chair and not across the table at each other.” And then the conversation haltedly continued for a moment while members tried to remember to speak directly to Bill instead of the other Board members, but very soon after returned to speaking to each other across the table about which types of buttons teachers are allowed to wear on Back to School Night. The whole scene was awkward and bizarre, and was repeated at several more points throughout the meeting, seeming to do more to confuse the Board members themselves than anything else. SDEA Board meetings are not sessions of the House of Commons!  Each time, Scott reminded everyone that they should not speak to each other and that they need to “address the chair” when they speak.

Class Size Caps
Discussion centered around the disagreement between SDEA and SDUSD about whether or not the class size cap contract language is in effect. SDEA is still “working on” this issue. Bill said the District has the money for the classroom caps but they “weren’t ready” for caps. He said, “They assumed we wouldn’t hold them to it.” If our union has now arrived at the point where the District assumes we “won’t hold them” to following our contract language, that is a real problem. We can’t imagine someone on the SDEA Board a year ago saying the District assumed we “wouldn’t hold them” to part of our negotiated contract language…

Bill said yet again that all K-12 members laid off last year will be recalled by Sep. 30. We should all have some good news in two weeks.

Committee Appointments
A list of the committees for this year was distributed, as well as the list of people Bill is appointing to them. The committee list was a lot longer than in recent previous years. SDEA used to have a laundry list of committees operating out of the SDEA central office. A few years ago, SDEA’s leadership made the choice to dismantle those committees that aren’t required by the governance documents because the same people were serving on them over and over again, and they weren’t doing anything to make our school sites stronger as a union. Instead, SDEA decided to build site organizing committees out at our schools instead of at the union office, so that our entire membership became more engaged, not just the same 30 people who volunteer for committees. Nonetheless, Bill and the current SDEA Board are now shifting back to a structure where site organizing is no longer the main focus, and going back to a structure of centralized committees with which most members will have no involvement.

Michelle Sanchez raised the question of why the general membership wasn’t made aware of these new committees and given the opportunity to volunteer before Bill filled them up. SDEA Vice President Lindsay Burningham replied that appointments are the President’s discretion. While this may be true, that’s not the point. The point isn’t that the rules allow the President to exclude members from the opportunity to participate in our union, the point is that excluding members who want to participate is not democratic, whether it’s technically allowed or not.

This year’s committees include the Political Involvement Committee (PIC), the Contract Administration Committee, a new Bylaws Committee, and a new Professional Development Committee.  We look forward to reading information that contains a description of the purpose and goals for each committee sometime in the immediate future so that membership can understands why these committees exist.

The Board also voted to rejoin the joint District Health and Welfare Benefits Committee. The point of this committee is for unions to talk to the district about our benefits. Why do we need to talk to the district about our benefits? Our benefits are already negotiated into the contract and the District is obligated to provide them regardless of what other factors change with VEBA or anything else. We should only ever talk about changes to our benefits with the district at the bargaining table, when we are obligated to, period. However, as Lindsay Burningham said during the discussion, our union is now heading in a different direction with the district. But even Bill admitted during the discussion that when SDEA used to participate in that committee, confidential information shared during the union caucuses would inevitably be leaked back to the District. All of this is why the previous union leadership took us out of that committee, and it is disturbing that the current leadership wants to reverse course.

Political Contributions
The Board voted to give $15,000 EACH to School Board candidates Marne Foster and John Lee Evans. Three years in a row Evans voted for massive layoffs, and SDEA’s leadership has just shown him we’ll not only support him anyway, we’ll bankroll him to boot. The only dissenting vote on funding Evans was Michelle Sanchez, who herself has been laid off by Evans three times.

Executive Session
The sole attending member at that point, Rosemary Pang, was excused from the room, and then asked to return. A motion was made to approve a new member charter organizer (the position previously held by Camille Zombro). The position was given to SDEA Board member Iris Anderson. Executive Director Tim Hill asked Rosemary if she would refrain from sharing that information until the other applicants could be notified. We assume they’ve been notified by now, but that seemed like an odd request for information that was shared in open session.

The next SDEA Board Meeting is on Thursday, September 27th, 2012.
All meetings are at 4:30 p.m. unless otherwise specified.

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