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WTU elections muddle deepens

Washington Teachers' Union president George Parker continues to take serious heat for his handling of officer elections, which were supposed to take place in May, but now appear to be sliding into September. On Friday, an attorney for general vice president Nathan Saunders, one of Parker's two re-election opponents, filed a complaint with the Department of Labor alleging that Parker has improperly tampered with the conduct of the contest.

This is more than an arcane, intramural dispute. The next president of the WTU will play a key role in working with DCPS to implement the details of the new contract. Saunders and the other presidential candidate, Phelps High School teacher Elizabeth Davis, have been deeply critical of Parker's handling of the contract talks.

Parker's problems began this spring when he failed to submit signed petitions required for re-nomination by the April 30 deadline specified in union rules. But Parker and his partner in negotiating the contract, the American Federation of Teachers, said the deadline was void because the union's elections committee, which oversees conduct of the contests, was never legally constituted. That's because last year, only five teachers even submitted nominating petitions to run for the 15-member panel. They apparently took their seats on the committee without an election.

The AFT, whose president, Randi Weingarten, invested significant time and political capital in the contract, intervened at Parker's request and ruled that a full elections committee needed to be elected and seated. That happened at the end of May.
Parker's problem is that the new panel is made up mostly of Saunders and Davis supporters. The panel is ready to proceed with an election--with Parker not on the ballot because he blew the April 30 deadline. But Parker, backed by union lawyer Lee Jackson, says that there was no legal elections committee on April 30, so there was no deadline. He also maintains, per an opinion from Jackson, that the WTU executive committee--a more Parker-friendly venue--will set an election date and a new deadline for petitions.

At Monday's D.C. Council hearing on the contract, which comes up for a vote next week, Parker tried his best to explain the Byzantine workings of the WTU. "There are political differences within the WTU," he said, a significant understatement.

"This is harder than Florida, George," said Council member Harry Thomas, Jr. (D-Ward Five), who said he'd received numerous complaints from union members.
"There is a huge feeling of people feeling like they've been disenfranchised in the process," Thomas said.

CORRECTION:The post above mistakenly reported that George Parker was solely responsible for the AFT's intervention in the elections committee matter. Parker rightly pointed out Tuesday afternoon that it was Saunders' initial protest to the Department of Labor and the AFT over Parker's handling of the committee that triggered Weingarten's involvement. Only after that, Parker said, did he join Saunders in asking the AFT to get involved.

By Washington Post Editors  |  June 21, 2010; 3:04 PM ET
Categories:  Add category , Washington Teachers' Union  
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Not that I'm thrilled with the possibility of Saunders as WTU president, but I believe it's time for Parker to go. The teachers have no confidence in him, as we have no confidence in Rhee. DCPS is a bigger mess than it ever was. Morale is low, principals are tyrants, students are out of control, no one can speak out for fear of being fired. It's the most toxic environment I've ever seen. The top-down style of management isn't working. Creativity and freedom--two essentials educators must be able to rely on--have been squashed. The data if false. Rhee's claims are bogus as test scores have been rising in DCPS for a decade now.

The school system will continue to improve but not because of Rhee. As the socio-economic and demographic factors change in DC and those new folks enroll their children in traditional public schools, we will see that reflected in test scores and student achievement. As the poorest of our city flock to the suburbs (PG County in particular) we will see a dramatic rise in student achievement in DCPS.

I'm not saying any of this is right or that I support "gentrification." I'm just stating a fact as I see it.

Every study in education cites socio-economic factors as the greatest impact on student achievement. As DC becomes more middle class and upper-middle class, in turn we will see the school system improve dramatically.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | June 21, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

This whole WTU teachers' contract has been a three year nightmare. Teachers are teaching to the test, which is usually not what most school systems do. Teachers' creativity, lesson planning, implementation of the lessons, and assessments, are what teachers traditionally have done. However, Michelle Rhee, a failed three year teacher (two years she worked with a co-teacher), who has no experience in running a school system has demonstrated, that she is Not qualified for the leadership that DCPS needs. Ms. Rhee has ruined an entire school system. Dr. Clifford Janey should have never been fired by Adrian Fenty, the worst mayor DC has ever had. This school system needs new experienced leadership. The WTU needs a new president, because Mr. Parker has sold his fellow teachers out.

Posted by: fivetogo | June 21, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad that DC teachers are finally seeking legal help from outside agencies. They should have done this earlier. I believe that justice for district teachers will come through the courts and/or federal government agencies.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | June 21, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse

" He also maintains, per an opinion from Jackson, that the WTU executive committee--a more Parker-friendly venue--will set an election date and a new deadline for petitions."

This is the committee that Parker refused to schedule meeting for this past year or cancelled at the very last minute.

Posted by: edlharris | June 21, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

This over at the Examiner:
Retired D.C. teachers lose out on back pay in contract

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

Posted by: edlharris | June 21, 2010 10:47 PM | Report abuse

I share UrbanDweller's sentiments about the prospect of a Saunder's administration and the growing disdain I feel for Parker. He, with the assistance of Weingarten, have hijacked the constitution for their personal benefit.

I hope part of Saunders' complaint seeks to have Parker reimburse any salary beyond the June 30 end of his office. All these legal wranglings are only postponing the inevitable: Parker's days as WTU president are numbered.

Posted by: schooletal | June 21, 2010 10:55 PM | Report abuse

*He and Weingarten have hijacked the constitution for their personal benefit.*

Posted by: schooletal | June 21, 2010 10:57 PM | Report abuse

As a teacher, I am offended by Parker and Weingarten at the AFT. Teachers are entitled to hold an election, this year. The WTU President cannot determine to delay the elections because that will be for his benefit alone. There has been no membership meeting held at all this year. It seems like both unions, WTU and AFT are taking complete advantage of our dire situation.....and we are paying for it every two weeks. Any money that Parker, who is the sole reason for this delay, makes after his term expires on June 30, 2010 should be paid back to the membership dues. This amounts to theivery just as in the barbara bullock case.

Parker says the Executive Committee will set a new election schedule....the problem with this school of thought is the fact that he has not had a meeting since March 25, 2010. The meetings don't happen until he calls for them to happen. Now, since he wants something done, he will try to pull meetings together--at the end of the year---when it will be challenging to get a quorum. this was all set-up for his benefit.


Posted by: teachdc | June 22, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

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