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Saunders: Parker gambit 'absolutely pathetic'

By Bill Turque

Mail ballots go out Monday in the Washington Teachers' Union election runoff, and WTU president George Parker, facing a stiff challenge from general vice president Nathan Saunders, is reaching out to a younger and less active segment of the union electorate for help.

Parker and his running mate, WTU professional development director Dorothy Egbufor, have invited graduates of the D.C. Teaching Fellows and Teach for America training programs to a Monday evening meeting at the Logan School auditorium. The somewhat vague agenda, according to a notice on the WTU site, is to "hear and address first-hand" what he called the "plight" of these teachers.

The two organizations--which draw young people who didn't complete traditional undergraduate education programs--have close ties to former Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and interim Chancellor Kaya Henderson. Both are Teach for America products, and Henderson was Rhee's vice president at the New Teacher Project, the recruiting firm Rhee founded. It handles training for the D.C. Teaching Fellows.

Saunders said Thursday night that the meeting--which could have been called anytime in the last three years of Parker's term--is a blatant abuse of his incumbency to drum up support.

"It is a last ditch effort," said Saunders, who edged out Parker 334 to 313 last month but fell short of the 51 percent majority needed to win outright. "I would hope that Teach For America and DC Teaching Fellows will not be suckered by a cheap political trick," which he called "absolutely pathetic." Saunders said he and his running mate, Candi Peterson, have filed a formal complaint with the American Federation of Teachers, which has stepped in to run the election because political feuding and scuffling within WTU had delayed it for months.

Parker, whose cell phone mailbox has been full the last few days, has not been reachable for comment. My best guess is at his response: that he's just doing his job as union president.

Last summer teachers overwhelmingly approved the contract Parker negotiated with Rhee, which provided for a five-year 20 percent pay package while weakening seniority protections. Saunders supporters say Parker has given away too much to Rhee.The problem for both is that most teachers, their money in hand, seem to have tuned out. Just 20 percent of the 4,200-member union completed mail ballots in last month's election. Deadline for return of the runoff ballots is Nov. 30.

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By Bill Turque  | November 12, 2010; 8:03 AM ET
Categories:  Washington Teachers' Union  
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In addition to abusing his incumbency to hold this meeting for obvious political gain, who's auditing the WTU's books to see if he has misappropriated $$$ to send out seemingly endless fliers and other materials about his candidacy?

Posted by: BitterJill | November 12, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

The bottom line is George needs to be voted out as the "HOLDOVER" President of the Washington Teachers Union (WTU). George betrayed the retired DCPS teachers, wrongfully terminated educators and most of the WTU Executive Board Members SY 07-10. Frankly, George sold out the WTU!! It's time for new leadership who will revitalize integrity, respect and equal rights for all WTU members. Vote for the Nathan Saunders Slate in November 2010. Every WTU member deserves DIGNITY and JUSTICE!!

Enough is Enough!! George MUST GO!!

Posted by: sheilahgill | November 12, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Pathetic is an understatement. Parker is not fooling anyone with this underhanded rouse that he actually wants to hear from a segment of the membership.

Parker has had several years to hear from any group of the membership he wanted. The fact is that he did not want to meet with the membership. He has not called a general membership meeting (except for his travelling side show to get the contract ratified)in three years; He has not held a representative assembly meeting since April 2010 (they should be held monthly); he has canceled more Executive Board Meetings than he has held in the past two years and he has not gotten his annual operating budget approved by the membership (as the constitution requires) in three years. And now, he wants me to believe that he is doing this in the best interest of the new teachers,,,,,HOGWASH!

This is Parkers low-down dirty way of meeting with these new teachers, on the day that the run-off ballots come out, in an attempt to coerce them to vote for him. Here's hoping that these new teachers are not that gullible and will not fall for these antics. George Parker has not chosen to meet with this group in the last three years just like he has chosen to ignore his own membership; the wronfully terminated; the retired teachers who lost their benefits and pay because of the contract he negotiated with Rhee---and the list goes on!

Parker, get your hat, your coat and leave sir! Your services are no longer required.

Posted by: teachdc | November 12, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: | November 12, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Why anyone would vote for Parker is beyond me, but how is it that interns get to vote in teacher union elections?

Posted by: mcstowy | November 12, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

The first concern might be: why don't most WTU members vote--for anyone?

Posted by: axolotl | November 12, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Rarely does this happen but I agree with axolotl. Most of us are completely dissatisfied with WTU. I used to be a big fan of Parker's and believe he gets that unions need to reform as well. However, he gave away the farm in this last contract. The money is nice but we conceded far too much and there were too many i's left un-dotted and t's left un-crossed--the details on IMPACTplus is one example. Bonuses should be just that: bonuses--not payment for giving up some basic due process rights.

Saunders on the other hand is a bit too confrontational.

Both of them need to look at the fact that less than half of WTU members even bothered to vote on the collective bargaining agreement. That says a lot in itself and even fewer voted in the recent election. It's too bad they couldn't have found a way to work together for the good of the members and the students.

That being said, our younger newer members are a bit naive and trusting when it comes to labor issues. They believe that if they do their jobs everything will be ok and there is no need for union protection. Unfortunately, the world doesn't work that way and it takes some age and wisdom and experience to find that out. I used to believe and was never a fan of unions until I began teaching 8 years ago. An effective union is very much needed. Principals are NOT fair. Teachers need some basic protections and due process when dismissed or fired. Unfortunately, public education seems to reward those teachers who keep their heads down, don't rock the boat, aren't independent thinkers, keep their mouths shut and do exactly what the principal says and go along with whatever the principal does. That's not the kind of teacher we need in public education. We need innovative, creative, "think outside of the box" teachers who are willing to try new ways of reaching students. Unfortunately, principals don't want that and IMPACT doesn't encourage that.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | November 13, 2010 8:05 AM | Report abuse

I have known Nathan Saunders for quite sometime from West Elementary and there is nothing anyone can say Negative about him he is a LEADER that will stand up for what is. Right if you want a great union Dlate vote for Nathan & Candi these are Leaders that will Fight for your rights and will not. Sell you out like George Parker has done for years . George has put Union Members in a TRICK Bag long Enough it's time for him to go Hell put him back in the class room and see if he can still Teach Math .George your latest trick is going to backfire on you and Kaya Henderson you both need to be FIRED ASAP if you want Leaders that will bring the Union back to being Whole VOTE / Sanders & Peterson

Posted by: Darksecrettt | November 13, 2010 8:39 AM | Report abuse

UrbanDweller are you serious???

Since you've made one statement about Saunders being too confrontational, you should cite specific examples. Is it because Saunders stands up, speaks out and aggressively advocates for teachers who are in despair? Well, guess what...that is his job...that was also Parker's job, but you see how that turned out!

Teachers, the ones you believe are good and the ones you believe to be not so good, are being beat down by IMPACT (old and new teachers); teachers are resorting to teaching the test so they can keep their jobs....Is this what parents really want to see in their "effective Teachers?" I don't think so!

And where have you been the past several years. "Why can't they work together," you ask. Could it be because NO ONE can work with Parker--especially if you have a brain of your own...except for Rhee, or course!

Teachers need a level playing field so we can get to the real issues affecting student acheivement. Right now, the leaders are simply blowing hot air at the problem.

Posted by: teachdc | November 14, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

I thought Parker was in bed with Rhee. This just confirmed it. I really feel for the teachers in DCPS, he sold the teachers out.

Posted by: saj1219 | November 14, 2010 7:45 PM | Report abuse

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