There is currently a contested election for the SDUSD Sub-District A Board seat. Current Board President John Lee Evans, who has voted for more than 3,000 layoffs over the past three years and was the architect of our current contract concessions, is running for reelection. SDEA has endorsed him, and the SDEA Board voted last week to give him $15,000 for his reelection campaign. That’s about $100 (or the monthly dues amount) for every teacher he voted to lay off last year! And while we were told at the August Rep. Council by SDEA Vice President Lindsay Burningham that Evans went through the standard SDEA process for being endorsed again this past spring, as it turns out, that actually isn’t true. I emailed SDEA Field Organizer Anthony Saavedra to follow up on this. I received a response from SDEA President Bill Freeman, who told me that Evans had gone through the process the last time he ran (not this past spring), and so the SDEA Board decided that was good enough to do a “friendly incumbent” endorsement. Since when is voting for 3,000 layoffs and demanding massive concessions friendly? And why are we getting misinformation at Rep. Council before we vote for something as important as whom to endorse for School Board?
On the other hand, we have Mark Powell, who is also running. Who the heck is Mark Powell?
Another teacher forwarded the email below from Mark Powell to me last week and I think it is worth a read. But before you read it, here is my disclaimer: From the one interview I have seen him do on Fox News, I already know that I disagree with Mark Powell on the issue of Project Labor Agreements (PLA). PLA’s require the construction companies that win contracts have union employees and pay their employees prevailing wage. This means that the workers make a livable wage and can organize against unfair and unsafe labor practices in the workplace, and most likely that the company owner has a smaller profit margin. Yes, PLA’s mean that a construction project will be more expensive, but to claim that low-wage jobs save tax dollars is myopic. I call these types of jobs “Title 1 Jobs” because the families of these employees end up qualifying for Title 1 programs like free/reduced lunch, Medical, SNAP, etc. I am not in favor of sentencing additional San Diegans to the ranks of the working poor while the construction firm owners takes their profits to another state where they can pay less in taxes. I would much rather see additional dollars in the pockets of our workers to spend in our local communities.
That being said, John Lee Evans isn’t on my Christmas card list this year either. (I literally LOLed when I read the claims in the first two bullets on his reelection page. Apparently, last year he “fought to maintain small class sizes and saved 1,500 teacher jobs” right after he threatened to increase class sizes and voted to layoff 1,500 teachers.)
But what concerns me is that Mark Powell says that he repeatedly tried to contact SDEA President Bill Freeman so he could interview with SDEA members before SDEA made any endorsement decisions, and that he was met with silence. Why? And Why did Freeman directly tell Rep Council members than Powell had never tried to contact him?
Now that the SDEA Board has voted to contribute $15,000 to Evans’ campaign without requiring him to face members and explain why he deserves our endorsement after laying off over 3,000 of us over the past two years, or have the opportunity to ask him to recall the 40 ECE teachers that are still laid off and commit to vote against layoffs this year, I feel like this whole endorsement process has been a farce played out on the SDEA stage.
UPDATE: I wrote this piece yesterday and while it was making its way through editing I have since bumped into Mark Powell. We attended the same discussion panel this morning and so I introduced myself and we had a short conversation. The man I met this morning does not seem to resemble the man that Bill Freeman and the SDEA staff has been describing. I asked him a few pointed questions and I liked his answers, especially his view on all the layers of administration in our district which he likened it to a Costco 7-layer dip: It looks/tastes good, but it’s not healthy. After I returned home, I did more reading about his positions online and found that there are several issues I disagree with him about. Still, he is definitely someone that I would have liked SDEA members to be able to grill with difficult questions before choosing between two “bad” choices to endorse, and he expressed great interest in being questioned by SDEA members. So why has our union leadership prevented this from happening? Looking back on Evans’ comments that started back in May about how “Bill Freeman, the teachers’ union president has repeatedly said this year that the union will not stand by and watch the district falter,” it seems like the Evans-Freeman Alliance was forged long before the layoffs started.
—Shane Parmely, Twain/Garfield Teacher
Here is Mark Powell’s email:
I appreciate your email and am responding in reference to the following statement in your email:
“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…….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.”
There is no question that I would have welcomed an opportunity to meet with SDEA and presented my positions and plans, and of course would have welcomed the opportunity to vie for the SDEA support. I reached out to Bill Freeman on a number of occasions, but received neither response nor acknowledgement of my attempts at contact with him. In June I emailed him my position papers on my campaign platform, which I had developed several months ago, at the time I decided to run for the school board (see attached). I also placed calls to him in June and July and again no reply. As a qualified and viable candidate, I should have been interviewed and considered for the endorsement – I am an involved parent, a teacher, a university professor, teaching courses in teacher education, and when I was a teacher with San Diego Unified School District I was a member of the SDEA. I understand the important role SDEA plays in representing teachers and how important it is for the teachers to be heard by their SDEA representatives. At times of real hardships, such as the district is experiencing, it is all the more important for decision makers to review all options in order to best serve stakeholders (certainly, the students and their teachers) before making critical decisions… as it is expected of the board of trustees, it should also be expected of our representatives – AND, as you stated, SDEA has processes in place to allow for review of the options [candidates] via the Political Involvement Committee. It is unfortunate that SDEA completed the endorsement outside its own processes, in the manner you describe. I submit that is what we would teach in the classroom and set as example to our students, who would likely ask if there recourse to correct such affront.
I saw John Evans at the Point Loma High School Track and Field Dedication Ceremony last week. Again and again, John Evans takes center stage at “student/school” events to make a political announcement stating that he was proud that the board and the district were able to come to a historic deal to cancel the lay-offs of 1,500 teachers. The announcement was met with some cheers from the crowd, because he purposefully and routinely fails to say that it was that the board of trustees, led by himself, who voted for a 7.2% pay raise for teachers who negotiated in good faith. He failed to mention that all economic indicators available to him at the time of negotiations pointed to the fact that he could not make good on his promise to deliver the raises – clearly, that is not negotiation in good faith by the board under his leadership. Instead, he threatened to fire 1,500 teachers and increase the remaining teachers’ class sizes by 20%. He publicly announced that “it is unconscionable” that teachers would not accept pay cuts and work without pay, intentionally putting them in a position of public ridicule if they did not do what he dictated. John Evans backed the teachers into a corner and they had no choice – the teacher had to agree, otherwise they would lose 1,500 of their colleagues and damage the education of their students. The teachers were taken advantage of for John Evans political ambitions. You will also note that the teachers’ vote to ratify the set-back occurred in summer when they were on vacation – a convenient time to push through an unpopular issue. John Evans threw the teachers and students under the proverbial “school” bus. Now, he is trying to sound like he single-handedly rescued the district, pretending he had nothing to do with the very terrible predicament he created. Do you stand alone in questioning John Evans sincerity and commitment to the backbone of education – the teachers?
John Evans voted to cut the school year by one week with furlough days – that is one less week of pay for teachers and their families, and if the tax measures do not pass in November, the school year could be cut by another 3 weeks, resulting in 161 day school year, and one month less pay for teachers and their families. When elected I will do everything that I can to restore the school year. As a teacher, can you imagine what it will be like trying to cram a 200 day curriculum into 161 days and keep test scores up? Surely, it is hard enough to cram a 200 day curriculum into 180 days, but 161 days will be virtually impossible. Teachers acquire education, experience, tools and skills. Teachers can teach and create good students, but they cannot crate miracles.
Then, who do you think will be at the brunt of the criticisms?
John Evans’ poor decisions are will result in widening the current achievement gap; cutting teachers salaries by an entire month’s pay; making the work environment for teachers more difficult; and most importantly, making the learning environment for our children more challenging. Why does SDEA leadership and representatives fail to mention all this at the meetings? The teachers deserve and need to be informed – they pay for that and they should have the prime role to determine who best represents their interest and whom they should endorse. Equal opportunities should be provided to both candidates for the SDEA endorsement. Teachers need to hold SDEA accountable – by virtue of the dues they pay, teachers are owed proper representation and accountability. Teachers cannot afford to allow SDEA representatives create an uneven playing field and ram through their own interest, just like the board of trustees – once again at the cost of the teachers.
We teach our students that our foundation of governing is based on fairness and equality, and on checks and balances. The well being of education in this district now hedges on that equal opportunity.
Kindly forward this email to as many teachers as possible and all those you deem appropriate.
Again, I appreciate your making contact and giving me a chance to share some of my thoughts.
Mark Powell, MA.Ed., Broker
Mark Powell For School Board 2012
Direct (858) 922-7725
Fax (858) 458-3520