Freeman’s Majority Slipping, BARELY Passes Motions Limiting Debate, Praising Work of Election Committee

-By Shane Parmely CR Twain HS, Candidate for CTA Seat 4 Here are the April Rep. Council highlights. Read below for the full report…

  • SDEA President Bill Freeman asked the Rep. Council to limit member debate to two minutes. It passed by a handful of votes.
  • A resolution to celebrate the legitimacy of our election process passed, again by a handful of votes.
  • Freeman quashed SDEA Secretary Michelle Sanchez’s attempted motion to have elections handled by a neutral third party by not allowing a floor vote.
  • SDEA staff and leadership ignored Rep. Council’s March directive to develop a Spring Organizing Campaign.
  • Why is this good news?? Because the percentage of ARs/CRs opposing the current leadership’s attacks on democracy are growing every time. We are just a handful of votes from a majority!

Freeman Uses Robert’s Rules of Order to Quell Debate

So clearly, sometime since the SDEA Board meeting last week, Bill Freeman has been getting Robert’s Rules of Order lessons from our new Parliamentarian, Gail Boyle.  You might recognize (or you might not) Boyle’s name because she is a previous SDEA UFO, previous SDEA President, wife of previous SDEA President Hugh Boyle, and step-mother of current SDEA Board member (and Freeman ally) Kristin Boyle Brown.  Throughout Rep. Council Boyle was coaching Freeman, pointing out passages in her copy of Robert’s Rules and whispering to him while they sat on the dais during the meeting.  As one AR near me said, “Hey, if Bill gets coaching on Robert’s Rules, then can WE get some coaching so that WE know how to participate, too?!”

While I think it’s great that Freeman is finally taking the time to learn how to run our meetings according to the rules he and his Board majority insisted everyone use (even though it was clear that they didn’t really know how to use them either) it was pretty funny that he chose to unveil his new knowledge by making a proposal to limit member comments to two minutes.  Literally, his first action was to limit member participation.  And since it was a “proposal” and not a “motion”, we were told that members were not allowed to discuss it before voting on it. (I thought that was pretty funny… a proposal to cut off members while they’re speaking and none of the members are allowed to speak about it before voting.  Why call it a “council” meeting at all?)

Freeman Ally Proposes Resolution Praising the SDEA Elections Process

Before the agenda was approved, Cubberley Elementary School AR Debbie Redenbaugh added “Elections” to the Business Items portion of the agenda.  In some ways Rep. Council is a lot like Congress — there’s this thing called a “floor plan.”  A floor plan is when a small group talks ahead of time, makes a plan to bring a motion to the floor for a vote, and then does it.  The Breakfast Club makes floor plans and we do it openly and generally announce via email and blog that we are going to do it and we encourage ARs and CRs to show up and vote.  At no time do we try to pretend the motion and the floor plan aren’t coming from us.  But that’s not true for everyone at SDEA. Back before last year’s schism over the direction and lack of transparency within our union, Michelle Sanchez was recruited to be a part of Bill Freeman’s floor plans — to help him bring motions to the Rep. Council floor and get them passed while he got to look like a neutral party.  The first time I heard about a floor plan was after Redenbaugh ran a floor plan last year to kick then Vice President Camille Zombro out of her charter organizing job or the Board or the union or whatever. So when I heard she wanted to add Elections to Business Items, I couldn’t wait to see what “production” Freeman had planned for us. (Keep reading to find out.)

New Local Control Funding Formula and Our Restorations

SDEA Executive Director Tim Hill presented a document to Rep Council entitled, “What does the Local Control Funding Formula Mean for SDEA?”  Despite what is described in the document, it means that the District contractually will not have to increase our pay next year, even when additional funds are sent to our District by the state.  The reason for this is because, as the document says, “The June Agreement guarantees SDEA members 57% of any permanent ongoing revenue increase above the current Base Revenue Limit per ADA (BRL/ADA) for salary restorations.”  But the Governor’s new plan would make BRL/ADA a thing of the past, and would create a new funding model with entirely new legislative language that is not in our contract. The new model would increase the funding our District is projected to receive, but would NOT be a “permanent ongoing revenue increase” or hike in the actual BRL.  Instead, new money will come in the form of a Supplemental Grant which would replace an increase in BRL/ADA.  Considering how it’s been near impossible to get the District to honor our contract and that they are presently attacking the wages and benefits of the classified unions, do you think they’re going to divert 57% of new monies to cover our pay restorations if the June Agreement doesn’t require them to do so?  And this is why you never, never, NEVER tie pay increases (or anything else!) to legislation because legislation language can change quickly and completely nullify the intent of contract language.

SDEA Staff, Leadership Ignore the March Rep. Council Motion to Develop a New Spring Organizing Campaign

In March, Rep. Council approved my motion “that SDEA implement a Spring Organizing Campaign that includes accountability sessions with Board members to discuss pay restorations and other issues facing rank and file educators.”  I made the motion after SDEA Vice President  Lindsay Burningham made it clear that SDEA had no intention of putting pressure on the District to implement our raises any sooner than whenever the poorly written June Agreement (aka TA, New Contract) said we would get them.  (Remember when everyone was being told we see a 2% raise in our January paychecks?) So when I saw “Bargaining/Organizing Overview” on the April agenda, I expected that we’d be presented with a plan, and that the plan would include accountability sessions and other immediate member action. Instead, Burningham walked us through a document that the SDEA Board had previously created and approved months ago, that included none of those things. It was like having a student turn in a research paper that they clearly recycled from a previous class, as it doesn’t quite match the topic you assigned.

There has not been a single accountability session scheduled, and the only thing members were asked to do was sign up to possibly host one at some indeterminate point in the future. No escalating plan to win, no talking points for the School Board about why our raises should be implemented now, nothing.  Did SDEA even dedicate any staff time to work on this? So during my allotted two minutes, I asked Burningham if there was anything, other than a lack of desire, preventing the SDUSD Board from reinstating our raises this year? Nope. Then I addressed her “plan.” I pointed out that our union has already negotiated these raises twice and we STILL haven’t gotten them.  I don’t want to go into bargaining next year without having any of those raises implemented because it means we’ll have to bargain for them a third time.  I don’t want those raises on the table when the District comes after our healthcare, like they’re doing right now to the classified unions.

The point of organizing and holding Board accountability sessions isn’t to get the Board to do what the Board is already planning to do whenever the Board plans to do it.  The point of my Spring Organizing Plan motion was to get the Board to do things they aren’t already inclined to do.  And this is exactly why our union can never really be “friends” with anyone on the School Board.  Friendly?  Sure.  Friends?  No.  Not unless they vote like a real friend would on the important issues like our pay, health benefits, workload, class size, outsourcing our profession to TFA, etc.

I know I’m not the only one who remembers when our union used to be super kick-ass just a year or so ago.  We were feared by the District, reviled by the Union-Tribune, and admired by other local unions.  I know that our union used to organize our membership with ferocious strength.  We bargained raises, recalled laid-off teachers without concessions, and stopped that creepy San Diegans for Great Schools when it tried to kill our democratically elected School Board.  I know that our union used to lead from the ranks.  Members packed School Board meetings, grilled the Superintendents, and persuaded School Board members to do the right thing.  But now?  I hear a whole lot of talk from Freeman, Burningham, and SDEA Executive Director Tim Hill about pay restorations and see very little action that would actually make these restorations happen. We deserve staff and leaders who develop and execute strong plans to organize our union membership and so that we can start winning again.

Elections

While Election Committee Co-Chair Kandi Nieto was nowhere to be seen, her Co-Chair Karen Ellsworth was brave enough to show up and speak to an understandably angry Rep. Council about the election. Here are the updates:

  • Run-off ballots will be mailed out this Monday (the online schedule says they were mailed out Friday).
  • Stephanie Marble (SDEA Board Seat 8), Michelle Sanchez (CTA Seat 5) and I (CTA Seat 4) are all on the ballot.
  • Challenges to any of these specific races cannot be filed until the election for the seat has finished in its entirety.
  • Any successful election challenges that require a new election will take place after that, dates to be determined.

After the updates, many Reps expressed anger over the mishandling of our elections process. For example:

  • The SDEA Board upheld election challenges even though no candidates had actually broken any of the Standing Rules.
  • Stephanie Marble won her race outright with over 50% of the vote and the Election Committee did not declare her the winner.  (Note: The fastest way to piss off math teachers seems to be to redefine how to calculate “x > 50%”.)
  • SDEA seriously bungled our run-off once, pulling seats that shouldn’t have been pulled from the ballot and forcing the election to be canceled.
  • SDEA itself has violated Standing Rules left and right (read the growing list HERE).

So imagine the dismay we felt when we reached the Business Item of Elections, and Redenbaugh made a motion to pass a very long resolution extolling the virtues and legitimacy of our election process.  Ha!  Former SDEA President Terry Pesta seconded the motion and then spoke in favor of it.  Now, no one is saying the EC doesn’t work hard.  In fact, they could use more volunteers to help them count ballots so contact them at SDEAelection@sdea.net if you’d like to volunteer to help. But this motion wasn’t about the Elections Committee. This motion was about giving Freeman, Burningham, and their Board cover as they make attack after attack on our internal democratic election process.

I spoke against the motion, pointing out that there is a basic math error in the calculations made for the SDEA Seat 1 election.  I complimented Bill on his floor plan and acknowledged that he probably had enough votes to get the motion passed — barely — but that rank and file teachers union-wide are upset about how the elections have been handled and that they will be furious if this motion passes.  Ever direct and correct Birney Elementary AR David Peterson called out the incumbent SDEA Board for using their position of power to overturn elections that they lost in order to give themselves another chance to win.  Several ARs spoke against the resolution (If you were one of them and we haven’t been introduced, reply to this email and say hello.  Let’s get to know each other!) and many more just shook their heads in disgust from their seats and talked about how many members at their sites already want to quit our union.  During the debate, Sanchez tried to make a substitute motion that would have had a neutral third party handle our run-offs and challenges for the duration of the process so we can all have faith in the outcome. The motion seemed popular while she spoke, but Freeman never gave the Reps a chance to weigh in.  He ruled it out of order, stating that such decisions fall under the Standing Rules which are “owned” by the SDEA Board. In fact, the Rep. Council “owns” the Bylaws, which trump the Standing Rules. But Freeman’s goal was clearly not following the rules — it was using the rules.So Redenbaugh’s resolution squeaked through 30-25, with a surprisingly large number of people abstaining from the vote. (Pesta argued unsuccessfully that abstentions should be treated as yes votes, but was corrected by Boyle.)

At the beginning of this school year, a resolution like Redenbaugh’s would have passed by a 2:1 margin.  Now the votes are basically almost 50-50. There has been a real shift on the Rep. Council floor since November. The voices supporting the basic principles of transparency and fairness are getting louder and stronger as more of us get involved.

That is why it is super important that you go ask and find out if your AR was at Rep Council.  If you don’t have an AR or your AR isn’t going, you can come as the alternate or run for the seat yourself.  If your AR was at Rep Council, ask them how they voted.  If you don’t like the answer, run for AR. This is our union, and the way we steer the train back onto the tracks is by showing up and voting.

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