Jun 19, 2013

No Debate For You: WTU Prez Saunders Bows Out Presidential Debate Amidst Confusion

Playing games with WTU members
By Candi Peterson 
Vote Davis Slate for WTU
Liz Davis /Candi Peterson
WTU Can Be Better!

Today right before the close of the school day, WTU President Nathan Saunders had a major meltdown and sent out an email blast to WTU members titled "WTU Alerts Teachers About a "Fake Debate Scheduled for McKinley Tech High School." What caught my attention was that Saunders actually sent the first email from his own WTU email account. Followed by a second email blast (see below) minutes later from the WTU Communication Director. Saunders' email to union members stated, "This is yet another attempt by individuals to misinform and mislead our members..... The individuals who are promoting this debate have put WTU members in great jeopardy for not following WTU membership and DCPS guidelines." It was Saunders allegation that someone used the WTU logo to mislead members into thinking that the event was union sponsored. Saunders made a not so subtle threat to  members when he affirmed that WTU could not represent members who trespass on DCPS property for any event unauthorized by WTU. Saunders ended with "We hope to discover who initiated this false information, so that appropriate action can be taken."

 You can't make this stuff up really. So I decided to contact Liz Davis, my running mate for the upcoming WTU Run-Off election. Davis stated in response,"No one ever represented the debate as being formerly sponsored by the WTU leadership, the election committee, or inappropriately used the WTU logo. The organizers had reached out to both candidates and thought the debate was on. It is also not true that private insurance must be posted to hold any and all meetings in school facilities. These are scare tactics are simply being used to inhibit the democratic process."

Michele Bollinger, a Wilson High School teacher who helped organize today's debate added, "I don't speak for everyone to be sure, but when I read Mr. Saunders email about the so-called fake debate- I was shocked and stunned. Personally, I read the threat of an arrest for trespassing for even showing up at McKinley. It reinforced what I already suspected about Mr. Saunders-- that the rumors of personal attacks, unjustified lawsuits, contempt for members' independent initiative were true."

 I'm saddened that WTU members had to endure this kind of chaos and confusion. I do humbly apologize as a longstanding union member to the teachers from Lafayette Elementary School, McKinley Technology Senior High School and Wilson Senior High School for their well intended efforts to organize this debate. Liz Davis and I are both disappointed that in the end Mr. Saunders didn't see it as in his interest to come to the debate. We hope that in the future we can rise above political gamesmanship and make debates a regular feature of WTU elections. The members and the health of our union demand it.

 Please don't forget to Vote Davis slate in the ongoing WTU Run-Off Election. WTU can be better! Ballots have been mailed. If you haven't received one, please email ALimberakis@WTULocal6.net with your name and mailing address.

© Candi Peterson 2013

Jun 17, 2013

Longer School Day & Longer School Year Up Ahead for DC Public Schools Teachers & Students!

By Candi Peterson
Vote Davis Slate for WTU
 Liz Davis /Candi Peterson
WTU Can Be Better!

Earlier in March 2013, DC Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced to the Washington Examiner newspaper that she was seeking to implement a longer school day and a longer school year. According to a schools spokesperson, DCPS was not ready to release the details at that time since contract negotiations were ongoing with the Washington Teachers' Union (WTU).

On June 11, Confirmation of Chancellor Henderson's plans to lengthen the time DC students and teachers spend in school came when she announced to the City Council Round Table on Public Education, "A LONGER SCHOOL DAY and YEAR IN THE COMING YEAR, WILL SOON TO BE MADE PUBLIC." 

So it seems the details of Henderson's plans as well as information on teacher raises will be revealed in the upcoming Washington Teachers' Union Tentative Agreement (T.A.). It's a shame that WTU's President Saunders failed to mention in his Sunday, June 16 robo call to union members the longer school day/school year, but instead emphasized teacher raises.   The timing of the release of the WTU Tentative Agreement is no coincidence as the news of a longer school day and school year is not the kind of news teachers and school staff want to hear. Saunders knows better than anyone that this kind of news could propel some union members to cast their vote against the WTU Presidential incumbent.

Some union members believe that the Tentative Agreement will be released to teachers after the WTU Run Off Presidential election, which is currently underway.WTU Run Off ballots arrived in teachers' mailboxes at the end of last week.

Be on the look out for a Tentative Agreement. Let a word to the wise be your guide. Before you vote, read the agreement in its entirety, and ask for explanations of anything that you don't fully understand.   Remember the devil is in the details.

© Candi Peterson 2013

Jun 16, 2013

Why are DCPS & WTU President Saunders Downplaying the Excessing of 500-600 Teachers?

DCPS Excess Teachers & Staff Graveyard
By Candi Peterson

Vote Davis Slate for WTU
 Liz Davis /Candi Peterson
WTU Can Be Better!

In the years under the Michelle Rhee and
Kaya Henderson regime, we have seen hundreds of teachers regularly excessed at the end of each school year. With the advent of 23 school closings in 2008 and now 15 school closings in 2013, more teachers and school staff have faced excessing under this administration. Henderson like her predecessor Rhee has downplayed the actual numbers of teachers receiving excess notices.

By definition, an "excess is an elimination of a teacher’s position at a particular school due to a decline in student enrollment, a reduction in the local school budget, a closing or consolidation, a restructuring or a change in the local school program when such an elimination is not a reduction in force (RIF) or abolishment.”  Under the current Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) Collective Bargaining Agreement, there is a great likelihood that excessing eventually leads to one's termination as there is no longer a requirement for teachers to be placed by DCPS. With fewer positions available due to school closings, it is reasonable to conclude more teachers will be forced out. What the general pubic doesn't understand is that Highly Effective and Effective teachers are among the pool of excessed candidates. Add to this list the number of reconstituted schools (Cardozo High School and Patterson Elementary School) and the number of yearly excessed teachers increases.

We are led to believe by WTU's President Saunders that the majority of teachers will get re-hired without any evidence to support these claims. Erich Martel, a retired DC Public Schools high school teacher ponders- "Why Chancellor Henderson and WTU President Saunders are downplaying the number of teachers getting excess notices this year?"  

© Candi Peterson 2013

"Why are DCPS Chancellor Henderson and WTU President Saunders Downplaying the number of teachers that received excess notices?"
       by Erich Martel, Retired DCPS high school teacher  ehmartel@starpower.net

"Five to six hundred” teachers will be excessed - Jason Kamras, DCPS Chief of Human Capital

On April 26, 2013, the DC Council Committee of the Whole held a hearing on the Teachers Retirement Act Amendment of 2013.  Chairman Mendelson questioned DCPS Chief of Human Capital Jason Kamras.

Mendelson:  “Roughly how many teachers do you think will be excessed?  Roughly.”
Kamras: With the consolidations this year, in the order of five to six hundred.”
Mendelson: “Will it be unreasonable to suggest that maybe a hundred will not find a placement in 60 days and will be affected?”
Kamras:  “I think that’s reasonable.  I don’t have the historical data.”
(Unofficial Transcript, DC Council Committee of the Whole Hearing on the Teacher Retirement Amendment Act of 2013; April 26, 2013; 12:30 PM  (Hr 1; Minute 47 into the hearing)

The most recent list of DCPS staff (2/18/2013) gives the number of teachers (as well as support staff) in each DCPS school.  The number of excessed teachers falls into three categories (see attachment for breakdown): 
1)  273 teachers in the 14 schools that are being “consolidated,” merged or transferred to a charter;
2)  200 to 300 teachers in approx 100 schools; what Kamras calls “our normal [annual] excessing process”; and
3)  The 74 teachers at Cardozo HS and Patterson ES, who had to reapply for their jobs, i.e. all are potentially excessed.  The total number of excessed positions has not been reported.
Thus, 500 to 600 excessed teachers appears to be accurate. 

Spinning the Numbers
After the final list of schools to be closed, merged or transferred to a charter operator was announced in January, some teachers submitted applications to retire or resign.  Others, hoping for another DCPS teaching position were allowed to interview for vacancies that were announced prior to April 1st and those who found a position before a certain date (perhaps before “our normal [annual] excessing process in the remaining 100 schools) will not be counted as excessed.

How many teachers were rehired at Patterson and Cardozo?  Will they be excluded from the count?
What about their colleagues who found a position at another DCPS school?  That was just 16 schools.  There are still 200 to 300 excessed teachers in the other 100 or so schools in Mr. Kamras' “normal excessing process. Will the public get an accurate count or will they be parsed and deconstructed into oblivion?   

The chancellor’s goal of dismantling DCPS is more difficult, if the public sees its full impact. When a union president helps management spin numbers to diffuse their impact, both teachers and parents should be on the alert for serious bad weather.   

Jun 10, 2013

WTU 2013 Election- The Best Kept Secret in Town!!!

WTU's Secret 2013 Election

By Candi Peterson

Vote Davis Slate for WTU
 Liz Davis /Candi Peterson
WTU Can Be Better!

The recent Washington Teachers' Union (WTU)  2013 presidential election was the best kept secret in town. The current Teachers' union president, Saunders kept our union elections on the Down Low (D.L.)  as possible. Members weren't notified officially of this election and there was not any official notice on the WTU website of the first election. Even though the WTU's Constitution & By-Laws requires that the WTU provide a copy of the union's publication, "The Washington Teacher" magazine's Election Edition to members, this print edition did not arrive at members homes until well after ballots were mailed out. If you were not the curious type, and didn't dare to check out the contents, you wouldn't have noticed the candidates bio's buried within the magazine on page 5. Nothing on the front cover suggested that this was an "election edition" or that there was a union election underway. Although promised by WTU, no official notices of elections were placed within our local schools, when I surveyed members from various citywide schools.

To add insult to injury, a significant number of union members complained of not receiving their ballots to vote." I felt like I spent the day looking for clues before I figured out our union election was being held", stated a union member who insisted on anonymity. Members who hadn't learned that the there was a union election, didn't know they needed to contact the union office for a ballot. WTU members had to jump through a series of hoops to get a ballot including Elizabeth Davis (known as Liz), candidate for WTU President. Although WTU 2013 Election written guidelines indicated that members were to contact a WTU staff member by telephone between 9-5 during the work week to secure a ballot, members who followed these written guidelines were informed that this requirement was modified and to get a duplicate ballot, a request must be made in writing. 

What is really disturbing in this election, is that full dues paying members reported that when they contacted the union office they were advised that they were no longer full dues paying members and were now agency fee members. Union members I spoke to indicated that they never gave their consent or authorization to have their membership status changed. This means that members whose status has been changed to agency fee could not vote in the 2013 union election. Sound like election tampering?? You decide. I bet Ray Charles could see this one a mile away. I'm troubled anytime a members' right to representation is tampered with and you should be as well, if you are one of the people this effected. (more on this later)

Well, in the event you didn't know- there was a Washington Teachers' Union election. The vote count was held on June 7, 2013. Here are the results that you will most likely will only read here on The Washington Teacher blog, since WTU is not releasing the official vote count and only percentages of the vote count. I am supplying it here because union members have a right to transprency:

394      Ballots received from WTU members
  50      Soiled ballots
3000    Ballots mailed to members (according to True Ballot, who mailed ballots/performed ballot count)

Candidates for WTU President

Maria Angala            44 votes
Michael Edgerton        8 votes
Elizabeth Davis       158 votes
Nathan Saunders     175 votes

17 point difference between top two candidates

Due to the fact that neither candidate received more than 50% of the vote, a run off election will be required according to the WTU Constitution & By-laws. The top two candidates will run in the WTU Run Off election. As outlined in the amended WTU Election Schedule and Guidelines, WTU run off ballots will be mailed no later than June 17.

The most important thing is that if WTU members do not receive a Run Off ballot through the mail, contact Alyssa Limberakis @ ALimberakis@wtulocal6.net to request your ballot. Provide your name and mailing address in the request. All requests for duplicate ballots must be in writing and should be requested beginning June 18, 2013.

Remember Vote Davis slate. WTU Can Be Better!

© Candi Peterson 2013