By Shane Parmely, CTA State Council Delegate
While attending the NEA Rep Assembly (RA) this summer in Atlanta, Georgia (full report HERE), I met a group of intelligent and motivated educators from Northern California. They were planning to attend the Summer Institute that CTA holds every year on the UCLA campus and convinced me that I should go, too. I, in turn, recruited SDEA Secretary Michelle Sanchez to go. While SDEA paid to send Michelle, I had to cover my own costs. And quite frankly, it was totally worth it! The double occupancy rate to attend any of the strands was only $380 and the training was actually quite good. The cost covers four nights of room and board, five days of classes, and fun networking parties/events every night.
Michelle and I participated in the Emerging Leaders strand. Over the five days, we met educators and Educational Support Providers (ESPs) from every corner of California. The most valuable part was hearing fellow educators state-wide share the stories of the organizing they had done in their own districts. It was heartening to hear good examples of educators banding together to confront an ongoing injustice in their school or district. And it was disheartening to hear the stories of district “leaders” blatantly making terrible financial decisions that negatively impact the students and schools.
The week built up to a mock Rep. Council meeting, during which we were teamed in groups representing different factions within a union and we were assigned a certain agenda to argue. The experience was intense and somewhat exhausting, but really the best way to quickly learn parliamentary procedure. CTA President Dean Vogel, CTA Vice President Eric Heins, and CTA Secretary-Treasurer Mikki Cichocki-Semo ran the mock Rep. Council, just as they do during the CTA State Council RAs. Afterwards, they debriefed us.
Several pieces of the feedback that Vogel shared particularly hit home. Vogel pointed out that when one of the reps had risen to speak to the motion, that he had turned his back on Vogel and had spoken directly to the assembly. Vogel cautioned everyone and said that some union presidents are super egotistical (his words) and that they hate this. He said that while there is absolutely nothing in Robert’s Rules of Order that says the speaker has to look at the Chair (i.e. president running the meeting) that some presidents nonetheless try to insist on it. Vogel explained that the Chair has two responsibilities during a meeting: 1) Stay out of the debate, and 2) Make sure that as many people as possible understand the issue before voting. He also said that reps can challenge the Chair if they aren’t following the rules for running the meeting and that the way the meetings are run is the property of the body.
Just like the NEA-RA, the CTA Summer Institute was a powerful opportunity to learn from the experiences of our fellow unionized educators in other trenches. Since the SDEA Rep. Council voted to generously fund our union’s member training coffers, I hope that a much larger group of SDEA members will have the opportunity to have our union fund sending us to this training next year. I encourage those of you reading this to attend!