Saunders: Parker gambit 'absolutely pathetic'
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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