Apr 28, 2009

DC Teachers Deserve A Better Union President than George Parker

Teachers Deserve a Union President That is Good 4 Teachers

The Washington Teachers' Union under the leadership of union president George Parker is in dire straights. Too often Mr. Parker is as petty as they come. A DC teacher I know and longstanding and actively involved union member frequently refers to Mr. Parker as "Petty Eddie." I now understand why.

After a 4/27/09 entry on the DC Wire blog titled 'WTU Veep Sent Back To School,' WTU General Vice President Nathan A. Saunders sent an email to our executive board and board of trustees. I have learned based on reading Nathan's email that teachers' union president George Parker has yet to approve his leave of absence application to continue on in his elected role as the vice president of our union. What's interesting to note is that Parker , an elected official like Mr. Saunders, approved leave of absences for himself and certain members of the WTU staff.

Parker's delay tactic is not uncommon. He often fails to acknowledge board members concerns unless we email American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. It is not uncommon for Parker to also ignore constituents emails, or claim he is just so busy tending to union business that he is unavailable. Parker's latest act is unconscionable.

As a member of the union board of trustees, building representatives for teachers and related school personnel, as well as one who has served on union committees- I have seen first hand Parker's refusal to comply with motions passed by our executive board. He frequently fails to represent teachers in the media as required by our constitution , often doesn't make timely business decisions, fails to communicate, mismanages our union office, regularly cancels board and representative assembly meetings, excludes critical union stakeholders from having input and withholds portions of the truth from our membership. As noted on this blog earlier this year, members of our WTU executive board passed a motion in spring 2008 to seek the assistance of the American Federation of Teachers (our parent organization) due to board members concerns regarding Parker's poor management of our local.

DC teachers continue to complain that our union office under the sole helm of Parker has been ill equipped to respond to members telephone calls, complaints and concerns. With an increase in teacher complaints due to Rhee's 90-day-termination plans, Parker has been unwilling to compromise with board members requests that an administrative assistant is desperately needed for union field representatives. It is common knowledge that many who have been placed on 90 day termination plans by the Rhee administration still lack the promised administrative supports (i.e. helping teacher, etc). Little wonder why chief negotiator Parker couldn't negotiate a teachers union contract with Rhee without the assistance of the AFT.

While it pains me to post this email from WTU V.P. Nathan A. Saunders, I do so because I believe that DC teachers deserve a union president who is willing to act in the best interests of our union members and not like some woman suffering from PMS. (Posted by The Washington Teacher).

April 28, 2009

WTU Executive Board and Board of Trustees:

This email is written to inform you that Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson has issued a “report for duty or be terminated” directive to me dated April 20, 2009. Her letter states the reason for this directive is that the official “DCPS leave of absence application” I submitted, is “not sufficient.” She asserts that “proper application” requires a memorandum of agreement signed by the WTU President. I have provided WTU President George Parker with a memorandum of agreement for his signature but, he has not signed it thereby negating my ability to submit the leave of absence application.

Article XVIII (E)(5) states “upon proper application, permanent teaches may be granted a leave of absence without pay for (1) school year to serve as a full time employee of the Union….” Deputy Chancellor Henderson states that WTU President George Parker’s signature is required for DCPS to grant my leave of absence.

In my attempt to secure his signature, he informs me that it may take some time “due to his heavy workload.” (see email attachment)

It is my responsibility to notify you of these matters and request you to demand his immediate action. I can be reached at (202) 213-7081.

Thank You

Nathan A. Saunders
General Vice President
Washington Teachers' Union
490 East L'Enfant Plaza, SW Suite 7200
Washington, DC 20024
Attachment #1

On Apr 27, 2009, at 7:27 PM, Nasaunders wrote:


As indicated in my previous email to you, on April 24, 2009 I left documents-for your signature- pertaining to my leave of absence from DCPS, with your assistant Herb Thomas. To date, I have not been notified that those documents have been signed by you and ready for pick up.

Please notify me as to the date and time that those documents, with your signature, will be ready for me to pick up from the WTU Office. If there are any other concerns regarding this matter, please advise me of such.

Thank you.

Nathan A. Saunders
General Vice President
Washington Teachers' Union
490 East L'Enfant Plaza, SW, Suite 7200
Washington, DC 20024

On Apr 27, 2009, at 8:03 PM, Randi Weingarten, AFT President wrote:

What needs to be done here ?


On Apr 27, 2009, at 9:22 PM, George Parker wrote:


I am in receipt of your envelope around 4 pm today left on my desk by Herb Thomas on Friday. I have not had an opportunity to review the information but will do so ASAP given my heavy workload ( preparation for negotiations, placement of excessed teachers, transition to People Soft, 90-day plan, school restructuring, teacher certification notices, etc.). Once I have had an opportunity to review the documents and consult with the WTU attorney, I will get back with you immediately.

In the meantime, if there exists any reason why you feel I should not take reasonable time to review and investigate all documents and information associated with this issue, as well as seek appropriate legal counsel from the WTU attorney, before taking any official action on behalf of the WTU, please provide the reasoning behind such urgency.

As you are aware, leave of absence to work for the union is a collective bargaining issue and how we resolve associated conflicts can possibly become precedent setting for future contract interpretation. Therefore it is critical that we analyze all facts that led to this unfortunate incidence, how to avoid this in the future, and legal options for resolution.

Finally, to date, as WTU President I have received no official notification from you that you have reported for duty as a full-time DCPS ET15 WTU bargaining unit member at Eastern SHS, although rumors are that you reported. Please advise. I will get back to you within the next 72-96 hours.

George Parker


Old School DCPS said...

Really must go on record here in support of Nate. This is so obviously retaliation on DCPS's part, sending him back to the classroom, when he already has a full-time job, elected WTU vice president. Union officials always are granted leaves of absence for as long as I've been in DCPS.

Dee Does DC said...

This is so unfortunate! It's disappointing that some individuals have lost sight of the ultimate goal: improving DCPS. Instead of focusing on reform and collaborative efforts between 825, the WTU, and those in the trenches, hard-working individuals are now forced to redirect their attention to squabbles like this. I have to say, I appreciate and admire Nathan Saunders and I know he has my back! I hope this situation is rectified quickly so he can get back to his responsibilities as WTU VP.

Anonymous said...

I bet Rhee, Fenty and Henderson (as well as many others) are sitting back laughing at what a joke the WTU has become. We are facing one of the most virulent anti-teacher contract negotiations in the country and this is what is making the Washington Post District news.

Our union leaders have become our own worst enemy.

lindsey said...


George Parker you ought to be ashamed of yourself.......

Your heavy workload?????? What the hell are you doing? Surely you are not working on the contract or the 90 day plans, or the terminations........

Get it together man.... you are making us look like idiots!

Anonymous said...

Send him back... he hasn't done a darn thing all year!

Anonymous said...

To anon at 2:49am:

George Parker is that you?

..."he hasn't done a darn thing all year!"

Anon at 2:49am, to you I say ......neither has the WTU so, worst case scenario, they belong down there together!

Unknown said...

To Anon,

Your reponse is very embarrassing, and you appear to be very ignorant. As a DCPS parent, I surely hope you are not a DCPS teacher, because it is frighting to know that you obviously are not committed to your own profession, which tells me you are not committed to your students. By the way, in case you did not know or have not been made aware, YOU and every teacher within the school system whether you are a member of WTU or not, you still benefit from the WTU. Who do you think negotiates and preserve the rights of teachers.... Surely not YOU.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone curious about the effect this shuffle is having on the students that Saunders is suddenly teaching?

The Washington Teacher said...

Children were not first when Ms. Kaya Henderson DCPS Deputy Chancellor made the administrative decision to assign Nathan Saunders, WTU VP back to a local school. Many say Henderson is retaliating against Nathan Saunders after he wrote her a response email to her letter to him which castigated him about what went on in a private union meeting at Turner Elementary school.

Today this story appears in The Washington Post DC Insert on page 1 and it is titled "Contentious Teachers Union Official Is Sent Back To School." Stay tuned because I think that there is more to this story than meets the eye. ;-)

kingston said...

This is beyond pettines...once again we are the laughing stock of the country!

lindsey said...


You go! Finally, parents are getting involved in this pretend reform agenda.

I hope you are a DC Voter. If so, we have a lot of work to do before September 2010

Iris J. Toyer said...

A recent flurry of E-mails alerted many of us that Nathan Saunders, Vice President of the Washington Teachers Union, had been ordered back to the classroom or face termination. The dispute seems to stem from the submission or lack thereof of a request for a continued leave of absence while serving as a paid elected union official. I am neither a union member nor a teacher. I believe that how our government treats duly elected representatives of our workers sheds a bright light on how employees will be treated. How this particular dispute will be resolved is anyone's guess.

What readers should know is that the Rhee administration has ordered the WTU Vice President back to the classroom. He is paid handsomely by the WTU to represent the membership. There seemed to be questions as to whether or not WTU officials are in fact employees of DCPS. In speaking with Mr. Saunders, I learned that paid members of the WTU do not come off of DCPS' payroll. They continue to earn leave and years toward their service, and when their term is over they return to the classroom. If I remember correctly, they continue to collect their DCPS salary and WTU pays them the difference between what DCPS pays them and the higher WTU salary, and also reimburses DCPS (at least that is supposed to happen). It would be so much cleaner if WTU paid the entire salary in the beginning. Nathan and one other WTU official did not collect their salaries from DCPS. His point is you cannot serve two masters.

Apparently the paperwork that is now being discussed by Kaya Henderson, Deputy Chancellor, is a new process. Formerly union employees used the same request for a leave of absence that an employee who is going on a sabbatical or on extended travel, etc., would use. I am not sure why Nathan was not informed of the change or who should have informed him. The fact remains that he is a duly elected member of the WTU executive team and will continue to be so. This action interferes with that relationship, which might be the intended purpose. I think union members ought to ask themselves: if they do it to Saunders in the morning, what's to stop them from doing it to me in the evening?

The Washington Teacher said...

A reminder of The Washington Teacher blog rules. Anyone is free to disagree with me or with other commenters, as long as it is done politely. Comments that take a belligerent approach, are at risk of being deleted. Please approach this blog with the civility you would bring to any live discussion. Don't post anything here that you wouldn't say face to face.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, the time may be now to seek representation from another union. Sadly this wetting contest is starting to blow back in everyone's face. I can't wait for the next WTU election. A full sweep needs to be made for a new slate.


Anonymous said...

I agree with the last anon post... Let's seek another union... I am tired of this madness! When is George and the rest of the union people up for re-election?

Anonymous said...

Candi, what about a recall? It's in the bylaws of the WTU constitution.

Section 1. Petition for the recall of any officer for violation of obligations of their office
shall be initiated by a recall petition clearly stating the specific charges and signed by
not fewer than thirty percent (30%) of members in good standing. Bases for recall may
include neglecting duties of the office as defined in the By-Laws, willful failure to work
for objectives of the Union and entering into unauthorized commitments of the Union.
If an officer is recalled, the Elections Committee shall hold a special election under the
procedures in Article VII, Section 2- C and H.

There seems to be some willful failure to work for the objectives of the union going on here and I think we could get 30% to sign for removing George, don't you?

Moore/Miami said...

The mistreatment of Nathan Saunders was not easily understood at first glance. But things are coming into focus now. Judging by today's reporting by Jay Mathews the terms of the sellout of the WTU are seemingly settled. Weingarten is going to get in bed with Broad and Gates, and their errand girl Michelle Rhee.


For sheer entertainment value read the last paragraph and Mathews feigned surprise at the coming Weingarten-Rhee Axis.

Paul said...

Hi Candi,
I can't believe this level of outright silencing from WTU regarding Mr. Saunders. Is there any appeal process?

I'd like to know more, please keep me posted on the latest.

Anonymous said...

Harriet Tubman gained her freedom, but reached back - no,went back several times - to free hundreds of others from bondage. That is the character of a leader with commitment to a greater cause. A leader must be strong enough to lead, knowledgeable to understand the balance of power but humble enough to realize the benefit in shared duties bestowed by those he represents. A leader must have the intuition and foresight to know the true agenda from the smokescreens. A true leader should be a role model for the next generation. These are the values in a President that I want my children to understand. Just think if Harriett Tubman had to wait for a signature? Where would we be now? Still waiting--I wonder.

Anonymous said...

" We are facing one of the most virulent anti-teacher contract negotiations"

The contract is only "anti" bad teachers. Those who don't even belong in the profession. Those actually doing their job well don't have a thing to worry about.

The education system must put children FIRST, and not waste money on substandard teachers who are not doing their job.

WTU member said...

The AFT should facilitate a mediation process not just between Geoge and Nathan but with the entire Executive Board. This internal squabbling has gone on for far too long and as we can see, it is getting worse. This latest clash not only continues to perpetuate the idea that the WTU is useless, incompetent and not really here for the kids, it also emboldens Rhee and her anti-union supporters.

I am not here to judge whether or not George or Nathan's accusations are true, this is really not the issue. The issue is that Rhee's second in command, Kaya Henderson, is hell bent on retaliating against a member of the Union leadership for conducting Union business that goes against Rhee. Even IF Nathan failed to submit the necessary paperwork, the response from George should have been very different. Throwing him under the bus actually harms all WTU members because Rhee has now successfully attacked a Union official for his work supporting teachers. Let's be real, retaliation is the olnly motivation for Kaya Henderson's actions and this is how George as well as everyone else should respond to it.

Anonymous said...

Just saw the newshour piece on you. Please stop whining and just get to work teaching

Roger said...

You did a "kick ass" job on TV last night. We should try to post the episode on the listserve. The piece did a good job of knocking Ms. Rhee down off her high horse. Keep kicking them--Hard

Old School DCPS said...

Y'all know I'm old school, not as computer savvy as some of you young teachers, but still smart and doing my best for our children. So could someone post a link to what was on tv? If it was the PBS piece, I tried to find it but couldn't. And yes, I too believe that the new contract will probably be anti-bad teachers, not anti-teacher. But this bickering, as Randi says, has to stop.

AVParodi said...

"The contract is only "anti" bad teachers. Those who don't even belong in the profession. Those actually doing their job well don't have a thing to worry about.

The education system must put children FIRST, and not waste money on substandard teachers who are not doing their job."

I always love statements like the one above. It goes right along with "if you're innocent you have nothing to worry about." You see, oh ye who I have quoted above, I have variations of this phrase in so many different ways. For instance, the idea that if we just "allowed the police to do their jobs", usually meaning that we drop stupid laws such as the Miranda law because this just "hampers" the police from doing their job. The contract makes it easier for you to be fired by any principal who comes in and doesn't like the way you wear your skirt or shirt. If you cannot understand the inherent problem with this then you haven't worked long enough in DCPS where principals, the old bunch as well as the new, have been known to act, shall we say, arbitrarily. Having proper due process and protection is necessary for teachers. It is a fact that when principals in other districts have been freed up to fire teachers the rate of turnover barely changes. However, if you look at the charter schools that have recently unionized you will find the same complaint - that teachers were fired arbitrarily.

Old School DCPS said...

I just saw it on youtube, the clip I was lookig for. It was a rerun of John Merrow of PBS interviewing Slade, principal of Ron Brown MS and of Rhee. But is there something else more recent that I missed?