— by Shane Parmely, Twain CR and candidate for CTA State Council
Breakfast Club Members Organize to Share Election Violations with SDEA Board
At least ten Breakfast Club members attended the SDEA Board Meeting on Wednesday, April 10. Many of them spoke during the Member Concerns portion of the agenda and shared their concerns about the recent SDEA election debacle and raised some good questions. How much have these mistakes cost our union? Why were elections pulled off the ballots when candidates hadn’t been notified of a challenge? I had prepared a document listing each rule of our union governance documents that have been violated or bent to favor candidates running against the Breakfast Club during this election, as well as an explanation of each violation. (Click HERE to read a more complete version of the one I shared with the SDEA Board.)
I wanted to read my list of Standing Rules violations to the SDEA Board in the hopes that they would take them as seriously as they’ve taken the other alleged violations made by current members of the Board. SDEA President Bill Freeman limited everyone to two minutes, but we had enough people in attendance that time was no obstacle! Once my two minutes were up, we passed the document around in relay-style, with SDEA Board member-elect Jenny Rivera and Monee Williams taking a piece as well. This sort of organizing is what makes unions strong — thanks to those of you who showed up and made it possible for us to share our concerns with the SDEA Board! Now let’s see if they listen.
SDEA Board Overturns Second Breakfast Club Candidate’s Election Victory
Given the contentious and high-profile nature of our current union election, one would think that the SDEA Board would be extremely thoughtful and cautious in reaching any conclusion that affects election outcomes and will cost our union thousands of dollars. Nope. Doesn’t seem to be the case. Former SDEA Vice President Marc Capitelli (Crown Point Elem.) challenged Nancy Dosick’s (Golden Hills K-8) victory for Board Seat #4. Just like current SDEA Vice President Lindsay Burningham’s challenge, Capitelli’s challenge was based on an email that Perkins K-8 AR Carter Anderson sent to her colleagues a week before the election window opened telling them she was going to vote for the Breakfast Club slate.
Oddly, Election Committee Co-Chair Kandi Nieto did not provide any of the Board members with a copy of the actual challenge or copies of any of the supporting documentation for this challenge. Freeman told everyone that it was the same as the last challenge and that they should all just remember from the last SDEA Board meeting… but not all Board members who were about to vote on the election challenge had attended the last meeting, which means they never saw anything relating to the challenge before they voted on it.
SDEA Secretary Michelle Sanchez had several questions for Election Committee Co-Chair Kandi Nieto. Despite Freeman’s repeated attempts to try to cut her off, Sanchez made several powerful points:
1) The challenges all stem from Standing Rule F.5 Campaign Finances and Use of Unit Resources. (If you are looking at the Standing Rules on the SDEA website, there is a glitch in the numbering and this rule is listed as E.5.) This entire section is devoted to describing the things candidates can and can’t do during the election. E.5 states, “District email addresses and/or systems shall not be used for campaigning.” Given that every other rule in that section focuses on the actions of candidates, I say that the Election Committee and Board are intentionally misreading this rule so that they can use it to get a second chance at electing their candidates. To say that all 7,000 members should, as Nieto described, read all of our rules and know them at all times is ridiculous. She’s the Election Committee Co-Chair and even SHE doesn’t know or follow all of the rules (as is evident in the document shared above).
2) The Election Committee has the ability to see how many people from Perkins actually voted in the election and can then easily calculate whether or not the votes from Perkins could have decided the election — a required component for election challenges in our Standing Rules. Burningham, who lost her bid for CTA Seat #15, but won her election challenge based on the same email, focused on the fact that there are 33 members at Perkins and that this was enough to change the outcome of her election. Burningham asked Nieto if it is possible to determine the total number of people that voted at Perkins and Nieto replied that this information was confidential. WRONG. There is absolutely nothing in any of our governing documents that require the names of members who participated in an election to be kept secret. Heck, that’s not even required in national elections. It is absolutely LEGAL and possible and less expensive for the Elections Committee to check the list of voters from Perkins to see if enough of them voted to sway the election outcome.
3) Sanchez asked Nieto if SDEA Board-member elect Nancy Dosick had been notified of the challenge, as required by our Standing Rules. Nieto stated she attempted to email her on the Friday, March 29, but sandi.net was down. Sanchez then asked if Spring Break dates were to be considered as part of the election challenge timeline. Nieto stated yes. Nieto could not recall if any further attempts to contact Dosick were made during break. She also could not recall if she made attempts to contact Dosick when schools reopened after Spring Break. So… no memory of whether or not she tried to call Dosick anytime in the previous two days? Really?! Bottom line: SDEA Board Member Elect Nancy Dosick was never notified of her challenge by the Election Committee or SDEA leadership and therefore Dosick could not speak on her own behalf at the SDEA Board meeting deciding that her election will be re-done.
At this point Freeman wanted to move the agenda because there were “many” other important items to get to. Sanchez then put forth a motion for all challenges from the 2013 Spring Elections be sent to the CTA Elections Committee for a full investigation and decision, based on the fact that over half the members of the SDEA Board were on the ballot, and our Standing Rules clearly state that if a Board member is on the ballot, then they can’t vote on election challenges. (Especially since each challenge seems to be using the exact same piece of evidence!) CTA should decide if the election challenges are valid because with all of the Board members who should be excluded per our Standing Rules, we don’t have a quorum. Burningham argued that when SDEA’s governing documents are “unclear”, that we refer to CTA’s governing documents. Sanchez countered that the SDEA Standing Rules are perfectly clear. But apparently since the CTA rules are worded in such a way that supports Burningham’s challenge, those are the rules the SDEA Board decided to use. The SDEA Board voted against sending elections challenges to CTA.
And with that, the SDEA Board, including Board members who had never seen any of the evidence, voted to uphold Capitelli’s challenge.
SDEA Board Denies Arbitration on Grievance That Would Protect Member-to-Member Communication
Rivera spoke to her grievance about SDEA members being denied the right to share union related information with each other in our District mailboxes. The District has denied her grievance and the SDEA Grievance Committee has refused to appeal it. The District’s main argument is that only official material approved by the SDEA Board is allowed to be distributed using the mailboxes. The SDEA Board denied Rivera’s right to have her grievance heard before a neutral third-party arbitrator (the same thing our union has been slamming our District for doing this year), setting an incredibly dangerous precedent for member-to-member union communication. Please read Rivera’s write up HERE for more details.
SDEA Board Votes to Give Kevin Beiser “Friendly Endorsement” for Re-election
SDUSD School Board member Kevin Beiser plans to run for re-election and is seeking a “friendly endorsement” from SDEA. As part of this process, he spoke to everyone in the room about issues near and dear to teachers. Essentially, he was preaching to the choir and doing an excellent job. But actions speak louder than words. It’s all well and good to talk about the plight of teachers, but if your votes as a Board member don’t help improve the plight of teachers then I’d rather not hear it. Current SDEA Board member Elizabeth Algren asked Beiser about raises and expressed her frustration at how much less our teachers make. Beiser agreed and talked about how we need to pay our teachers more so that we can compete with other districts in recruiting talented teachers. He said nothing about actually doing anything to get our pay increases implemented.
Burningham brought up Beiser’s vote to bring Teach For America (TFA) into our District. Beiser talked about how it was his understanding that Richard Barrera met with the SDEA Board (remember that fiasco?) and that Barrera had incorporated the changes to the TFA proposal that SDEA had recommended and that was why he voted for it. Oddly, no one on the Board, not even Freeman spoke up to contradict this and remind Beiser that Freeman spoke against the TFA proposal moments before Beiser voted to approve it. To sum up, they gave Beiser a pass.
During discussion before the friendly endorsement vote, Sanchez alerted everyone to the fact that the SDUSD Board, including Beiser, had just the previous night voted to approve the District’s initial bargaining proposals for the classified and police unions which are going into bargaining right now, and that the District’s proposals include major monetary and non-monetary take-backs. Sanchez encouraged the Board to postpone voting on the friendly endorsement until we could see how friendly Beiser was going to be in dealing with the other unions… because whatever happens to them this year will be a precursor to what happens to SDEA next year. As usual, the Board dismissed everything Sanchez said, talked about what a good friend Beiser has been to the teachers in our District, and voted to endorse him even over the objections they themselves raised while he was in the room.
I want to be clear: Kevin Beiser seems to be a hard-working and civic-minded individual. I would absolutely love for my children to have him as a teacher. But I am not ready to vote in favor of a “friendly endorsement” for him until I see him regularly vote more like a friend.