September Rep. Council Report Part One: Faith in Union Leadership Weakens

The Headlines:

  • ARs demand that SDEA leadership investigate collusion between SDEA leadership and the District, as SDEA leadership requests District help in squashing the recall.
  • SDEA budget includes $15,000 dues dollars to campaign for layoff-supporter John Lee Evans.

Last Wednesday, Sep. 19 I attended my first Rep. Council meeting as a newly elected CR from Serra High School. I was able to witness only the first 40 minutes of the meeting before having to return to Serra High for our fall Open House. What I saw in that time proved to be some rather extraordinary events.

SDEA President Bill Freeman opened the meeting with an AR/CR question and answer session. Dailard AR Jenny Rivera informed the Rep. Council that our union’s internal communication was breeched illegally. Someone in SDEA notified SDUSD of the pending recalls of the SDEA Board and Officers before the SDEA Election Committee had even approved it. Even worse, they requested the District’s support in squashing member communication about the recall, and the District is complying. [Read the original report on this HERE.] In addition, Rivera requested an internal investigation by SDEA’s Election Committee into the source of the leak and to hold the person responsible for the leak accountable. When she was done, Freeman said nothing and looked around the room to take the next question.

At this point, SDEA Board member Dennis Schamp (Lewis Middle School), a person I didn’t know from Adam, stomped to the front, took the microphone from Bill Freeman, and went on a tirade about how we “dissenting members” are keeping the union from focusing on “the real business” of the union.  Never did he mention anything about SDEA’s recent lack of accountability, transparency, or the lack of credibility leadership has demonstrated, which is why many of us are now involved.  After Schamp took the microphone and turned to talk to the Reps, clearly having no intention of asking Freeman a question, CR Shane Parmely (Twain and Garfield) stood up and said, “Point of order. This is Q&A and he’s not asking a question.”  SDEA Board member Scott Mullin, the recently-appointed “Parliamentarian”, and Bill Freeman did not try to stop him.  Schamp finished reading his typed up speech by asking obnoxiously “When will the nonsense end?!”  He then added that he just found out that he, too, was the subject of a recall campaign.

It’s too bad that Schamp thinks democracy is nonsense, and several ARs including Lynette Baker (Hearst Elementary) and Sue Giaqunita (Marston Middle School) spoke after him and said exactly that.

Giaquinta responded first, explaining that when we receive the fairly negotiated raise that the current union leadership negotiated away without coming to the members first, that’s when “this nonsense will end.” Baker next eloquently explained that in a democracy the minority must be heard and respected, which doesn’t happen anymore under SDEA’s current leadership, and only then “this nonsense will end.” She said that when members can go to Rep. Council meetings without fear of physical abuse, that’s when “this nonsense will end.” [Note: Baker was referring to an ugly incident last spring, when SDEA Board members Scott Mullin and Manuel Gomez literally assaulted SDEA member Shane Parmely at a Rep. Council meeting. Parmely was engaged in distributing an informational leaflet targeting SDUSD Board members who were supporting layoffs. Freeman has since appointed Mullin as SDEA’s “Parliamentarian” to ensure that order is kept at SDEA meetings. That is not a joke. Read the original blog post HERE. Freeman, Mullin, and Gomez are all included in the current recall.]

Other than claiming he did not witness such abuse but had still responded sternly to the situation (which differed from what many other members stated), Bill Freeman then cut the Q&A short early and quickly moved the agenda despite several more members wanting to speak on the issue.  He did not acknowledge any of the preceding discussion. Interestingly, Freeman skipped quickly over what was supposed to be a Prop. 30/32 discussion item on the agenda, which Board member Schamp had just demanded the union focus on. We agree that these Props should have gotten more attention, because thanks to Schamp, Freeman, and other Board members, if Prop. 30 goes down, we will all take another 14 furlough days. So why did Freeman rush this agenda item?

Something that did get a lot of attention was the SDEA budget. SDEA Treasurer Manuel Gomez introduced the SDEA budget for this year, which raised some very interesting discussions. Questions were asked about where the $15,000 supporting John Lee Evans for School Board came from. It was noted that a dollar or so from our dues goes for political causes and that the money goes towards an account separate from SDEA and is designated with the IRS as a PAC. SDEA is supporting Evans with our endorsement and our dues money even though he has voted over the last three years to lay off a combined 3,000 educators, and was the School Board point man in demanding we take salary concessions and open the contract this past spring.

Another AR noticed that our SDEA Field Organizers who come out to our schools earn $124,000 annually [note: this is the amount earned by the UFOs at the top of their salary schedule, and includes nine furlough days the SDEA staff are currently taking]. Gomez tried to explain this huge number away by saying benefits were a portion of the salary. The AH-HA moment came when the same member pointed out that the benefits were in a separate column and on top of the $124,000. Gomez either doesn’t understand his own budget, or was trying to mislead the ARs. The truth is that some SDEA UFOs are earning two times what many classroom teachers earn (and while this didn’t come up at Rep. Council, the SDEA staff earning these salaries aren’t even required to have a college degree!).

Freeman defended these salaries, pointing out that union organizing is hard work and that they often work weekends and don’t leave the office until late at night. He stated that good organizers earn up to $250,000. I wasn’t able to, but I would have liked to ask him what good San Diego Unified Teachers should earn, since we also work nights and weekends. We know what we should have earned this year, had the SDEA Board not opened up our contract and bargained even more concessions. Too bad Freeman didn’t defend our small raise with the same fervor that he had in defending the SDEA staff salaries.

As ARs and CRs were asking questions, some of the other more experienced ARs and CRs grew impatient that people were actually asking questions about the budget. One even suggested that everyone with questions could learn more about the budget at another time so that we didn’t have to spend so much time discussing this during Rep. Council. Considering the Rep. Council was being asked to vote to approve the budget right then and there, there wasn’t any other time for people to ask their questions. Besides, in August we were all told to go home and look over the budget and then come back with our questions. Finally, someone made a motion to “move the agenda” and take a vote and all conversation about how our union dues dollars will be spent next year came to an end.

— by Peter Burrell, Serra High School

3 thoughts on “September Rep. Council Report Part One: Faith in Union Leadership Weakens

  1. Pingback: NEW: Who Is SDEA Board Member Dennis Schamp? « The Breakfast Club Action Group

  2. thanks Peter, yes this is an informative piece. I also would like to question the support SDEA is giving to Marne Foster. She is a Brenda Campbell supporter, an Area Superintendent who was just released for croniism of the worst kind, the kind that bullies others to get her friends in high places.

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