- SDEA Board Votes to Remove “Member Concerns” from Their Agenda or Minutes
- Campaign Update: Prop. 30 Support Falls Below 50%
- Special Ed. Bargaining Team Appointed
- Board Limits Member Information Access Even Further
- Author’s Note: Is This the Union We Want?
SDEA Board Votes to Remove “Member Concerns” from Their Agenda or Minutes
I arrived at the Thursday, Oct. 25 SDEA Board meeting just after the meeting had begun. Each SDEA Board meeting usually begins with a “member concerns” portion where attending members can share our concerns with our elected union leaders. When I walked in, SDEA President Bill Freeman was leading a discussion about the “members concerns” section. He asserted that the “member concerns” are not a part of the Board’s official business and therefore should not be included in the official business agenda or the minutes for the meetings in the future. This is a departure from how the member concerns have been handled up until now.
SDEA Board member Barry Dancher objected. He noted that the SDEA Board is the body elected by the members, and that the Board is accountable to members. He questioned that if members’ “issues” weren’t the Board’s official business, where would they be dealt with?
Freeman responded that member issues should only be dealt with at Rep. Council, and that they will be contained to a limited portion. Disappointingly, the majority of the SDEA Board members agreed with Freeman. They voted to exclude “member concerns” from their official business in the future, and to approve the SDEA Board Minutes with the member concerns removed from the record. The vote was unanimous except for Dancher abstaining and SDEA Secretary Michelle Sanchez voting no.
Suggestions made by Dancher, Sanchez and SDEA Board member Ramon Espinal to move the “member concerns” into the business portion of the Board agenda so they could be reflected in the minutes were ignored. What does this mean? While members can still share concerns before the SDEA Board meetings, this vote will have the effect of removing any official written record of the concerns that we as union members share at SDEA Board meetings.
Campaign Update: Prop. 30 Support Falls Below 50%
The Board discussed SDEA’s campaign to pass Prop. 30 and defeat Prop. 32. So far, 90% of SDEA’s members have been contacted about the propositions. (Note: Several of us Breakfast Club “dissenters” have been a part of the phone bank and we hope you have too!) In fact, I was a few minutes late to the SDEA Board meeting because I was trying to finish a page of phone calls at the phone bank that afternoon. We Breakfast Club teachers and union supporters want these propositions to pass as much as anyone. Freeman’s TA tied teacher wages and cuts to Prop. 30’s passage. None of us can afford to give up a month’s pay, or want a shortened year, which benefits no one, including our students.
Unfortunately for our students and our paychecks, we learned at the Board meeting that Prop. 30’s support is continuing to drop. In the most recent poll, support is down to 48%, with 44% opposed, making our continued involvement even more important. If you have not joined an SDEA phone bank or precinct walk yet, now is the time.
Special Ed. Bargaining Team Appointed
I was particularly interested in this item because I was on the last SDEA Special Education Bargaining Team, which negotiated new workload protections. The new team will try to negotiate an agreement for the District to either pay the tuition/fees for the updated mandatory autism certification, offer the class within the District, or reimburse the teachers who are required to obtain one. The certification is due by June 2013 and many members have already taken the classes and paid $900 or more, so it’s confusing why our union has waited so long to address this.
Board Limits Member Information Access Even Further
During the officer reports, SDEA Vice President Lindsay Burningham discussed the research she and a group of teachers have done into Robert’s Rules of Order, continuing the Board’s excessive focus on rules and regulations. Freeman stated that Bylaws changes will be proposed after the Nov. 6 election. Read HERE about the anti-democratic changes the Board has been contemplating.
During the Secretary report, Sanchez asked for a formal acknowledgement and apology by the SDEA Board for an incident of harassment that occurred at the May 2012 Rep. Council (read the full report HERE). At that Rep. Council, two SDEA Board members, Manuel Gomez and Scott Mullin, bullied and physically intimidated two female SDEA members: Sanchez and Shane Parmely. Gomez said it was a matter given over to the police and they were investigating which then forbade him from saying anything on the matter. He also said he felt threatened by this request for an apology. Freeman simply stated that the Board couldn’t “make” someone apologize.
Sanchez raised a second concern, that she has yet to be provided with the membership list as is required by the SDEA Bylaws. She pointed out that if the list were provided to the Secretary, she would be able to provide the recall petitioners with the total number of SDEA members so we’d know how many signatures we need to hit the 25% threshold (read more on this HERE). Unsurprisingly, her request was ignored.
Sanchez raised a final concern during “round table.” The official minutes she took at the September Rep. Council meeting had been returned to her minus information regarding discussion of member concerns — before allowing the Rep. Council to review them, as required by the Board’s own favorite Robert’s Rules of Order. Freeman said he’d take responsibility for that and informed her that Robert’s Rules states that what is done at meetings should be recorded but what is said should not. This means that Freeman decided, all by himself, to edit the official Rep. Council minutes, instead of allowing the Rep. Council to do it themselves.
First of all, the SDEA’s Bylaws state that it is our meetings, not our minutes, which are governed by Robert’s Rules of Order (they are actually two separate sections). Second of all, excluding member issues as an agenda item was only voted on at the beginning of this very meeting, subsequent to the prior Rep. Council meeting. Yet again, this seems to support Freeman’s pattern of doing what he wants and then creating a new rule to support it afterwards. And it seems that the Board will support him in silencing anyone they don’t want to hear.
The meeting was adjourned.
Author’s Note: Is This the Union We Want?
More than any particular item on the agenda, what struck me the most at this Board meeting was an overall sense of hostility. It was understated, but was clearly present in their frankly disturbing focus on refining and controlling every tiny detail of their rules and procedures. This focus on the rules isn’t to help make things more clear so members can get involved more easily. Instead, the purpose of these efforts seems to be silencing any criticism by us — the union’s members — that they deem as divisive or negative. They seem to be buttressing up an SDEA Board that is obsessed with creating and using rules to exclude rank and file members — a Board which I for one would happily elect to fire, part and parcel. I want a union comprised of democratic and inclusive members — none of whom feel entitled to dictate to me what I want or don’t.
Bill Freeman and his supporters on the Board just don’t get this. His numbers regarding the TA are different each time he finds need to mention it, but we remember that at least a third of those of us who were able to vote, voted against the TA, and many others who felt pressured to vote for it still feel disenfranchised with the union’s leadership. And just as significantly, only a few hundred teachers voted in the last SDEA election at all (the one where Freeman was reelected after running unopposed). Out of 7,300 teachers that is NO MANDATE for opening our contract, or for rewriting the purpose of the union’s Board and Rep. Council. Until we have union leadership who understand that they need to listen to, not suppress, dissenting views, our union will remain divided and therefore weak.
— by Stephanie Marble, Clairemont HS