Tuesday, December 7, 2010

DEC Meeting

Hello EDU and EDU supporters

Please join us this Thursday in the Glen Park Library meeting room to
talk union and social justice. Our agenda will include discussion on
the upcoming March 2 day of protest against budget cuts and planning
for our January panel to be cosponsored with Teachers for Social
Justice. Come and join us.

When: Thursday December 9 4:30-6:30 pm
Where: Glen Park Library meeting room, 2825 Diamond St

EDU Assembly notes

EDU notes for Assembly (11/17/10)

Attendance: about 50

This month’s assembly was unique in that there were no resolutions to vote on. Also, noticeable was the large number of reports about a variety of issues that UESF is dealing with. EDUers who attended the assembly, please read these notes for accuracy to see if they actually reflect all the information that came out of the assembly.

Report on November 2nd election: Ken Tray reported that it appeared that UESF candidates for Board of Education were going to sweep. Hydra Mendoza easily won, while Kim Shree Maufas and Emily Murase appear to have won by a much narrower margin. Emily Murase actually attended the assembly and thanked UESF for giving her the endorsement his year which she said was vital to her getting elected. Murase is a very unknown quantity. It will be interesting to see if UESF support pays off for our union. Kim Shree Maufus also showed up and thanked UESF. Her speech was interesting in that she was clear that some very tough times are coming ahead. Her comments were short and she struck a very somber tone acknowledging that the Board’s ability to change the political landscape was going to be limited by the larger forces at play at both the State and Federal level (that’s how I read her words at least).

Tray also acknowledged the important victory in defeating Prop. B. In many other counties, similar measures were on the ballot and passed by fairly large numbers. This speaks to the importance of unions coming out fully against Pro. B and Adachi’s overreach in trying to attack both city worker’s pension AND health care.

Tray talked about the fact that California resisted the Republican sweep that took place around country. This is good news, but left unanswered is what will Jerry Brown do about the $6 Billion budget shortfall we face this year and the projected $19 Billion we face they year after. Raising revenues by raising taxes on the rich? On workers? Or more spending cuts? The next few months will tell.

President’s Report: The president report was strange in that it was not really delivered by the president but by CTA and AFT staffers who have been assigned to UESF. Both individuals gave poor reports which were not very clear. These notes are my best attempt to describe what they said.

Goal’s Report: Staffer reported that the GOALS committee created to prepare our union for the next contract round (in June 2012) was meeting and coming up with plans. They marked out three areas of focus:

1) Establish a Community outreach committee. What it does and who is on it was not clear? It’s just supposed to be created.

2) Organize 2 day retreat for UBC reps. The date of this retreat are Nov. 11 and 12. It is a retreat to get feedback from building reps. and to lay out a course for the next year in the run up to contract date (June 2012). Again, there were not many clear details delivered on what this conference would really try and accomplish, but UESF will be asking each site to designate 2 people to come to the retreat. I think the idea is a good one (even if a little vague) and does at least set out the expectation within our union that we are preparing to fight in 2012. Lita’s question about “Will we fight the cuts this year?” was dodged. That is not a good sign for UESF preparing to fight back this year.

3) Communication – This was an area focus. I don’t know what it means and neither did UESF. The AFT person forgot to even mention it in her report.

Organizing report: CTA rep. Gave a report on efforts to organize within UESF a number of SFUSD employees who are currently privately funded (and outside the union). They are at the very beginning of locating people interested in working with UESF to organize the workers. The primary issues identified as important to these employees is health care, professional development and a hiring hall. Again, the report was poorly given and hard to follow so I missed a lot of details (anyone who can help with this?)

NEA - CFT Nominations are open. Blanket nominations were made for the CFT and
NEA RA gatherings ( to be held in March and July, respectively).
Dennis mentioned that elections could be held as early as January
(rather than in February which is usually the case). EDU
should discuss it's participation in these elections at our December
meeting, so that we'll be ready to go with outreach once the timeline
is announced. Lita B. is willing to draft a proposal for outreach.

Vice- President’s report: Linda Plack talked about how UESF was establishing a UESF hotline (415–956–8379). The hotline would be available 24hrs and could be used by anyone who needed to reach the union but was not sure who to call. This seems good.

Plack also talked about the School Improvement Grant (SIG). UESF is starting to pay more attention to the significant money that is coming into the school district ($45 million) and has growing concern over how the money will be used and the ability of UBCs at the affected sites to have an impact on how the money is spent. UESF’s emphasis is on classroom teachers, counselors and paraprofessionals. UESF has visited 2 SIG sites were the UBCs were not being consulted and this appears to be a general problem with many of the SIG sites. This is issue is directly related to UESF still having MANY schools without active UBCs. It is good that UESF is working to correct this by going directly to the sites, but this is also a bit late.

Para report on retirement: UESF seems to have made some headway on reaching an agreement with SFUSD over trying to overcome the significant shortfall for paras in their retierement. I will not pretend to be able to follow all the details (again help here would be good). But the most important things that came out was that UESF wold be hosting a meeting on Dec. 8th to inform paras of the deal and hold a vote to either accept or reject the SFUSD offer. Kelly and Plack were clear on progress being made but also that paras would still find themselves falling short in meeting their retirement needs. UESF will continue to work to get paras into Social Security (where it makes sense) and get paras out of PARS (and put their money in 401k or something like it).

Alan Brill report on Charter Organzing: The charter report was that we have 9 charters in SF, 3 are org'd into UESF now and 5 Keys has a dynamite contract. It was not explained what makes it dynamite or how/if it's possible to bring these units in to some meetings so that we start to feel like a more coherent union. Also, KIPP is the elephant in the room. A strategy of organizing the schools that AREN'T KIPP first is great but UESF also should be talking about plans for those sites as well.

UESF submitted a written report (from Susan Soloman) on Oct. 30, 31st Defense of Public education and public services mobilizing conference. The tone of the report was dismissive and at times inaccurate (in reporting on size, demands and actions planned). She recommends that UESF keep updated on what is going on around the march 2nd mobilizing date, but recommends no position yet on participation in the March 2nd mobilizing meeting.

This is the opposite of leadership, but better than condemning the conference. It is clear UESF has no plan for dealing with the cuts coming in Feb. and March of next year.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

edu next meeting

EDU: We're Not Waiting for Superman
Join Us!

This week Educators for a Democratic Union got together to bring real live educators' voices to the debate about public education. We passed out our leaflet and talked to movie-goers at the Kabuki theater. Check out our statement on our blog:

Join us at our meeting:
Glen Park Library
Thursday October 14 4:30 pm-6:30 pm

Pictures from the waiting for superman picket

Monday, October 11, 2010

Why We're Not Waiting for Superman

Why We’re Not Waiting for Superman

Waiting For Superman is an attack on public education, public school teachers and our unions. The film argues for a pro-business, anti-teacher vision of “reform.”

-The film argues for a top down reform strategy, based on promoting charter schools as the solution. In fact,according to a recent Stanford University study, most charter schools do not perform better than public schools, and many do worse. Only 17% of charter schools perform better than public schools and 37% of them do worse. The film does not show any successful public schools, or interview public school teachers, presenting a limited view that charters are the only solution to the problems of our educational system.

-The film asserts that education funding is not the problem. However, on the film’s website, individuals are urged to donate money to teachers working on projects—because we lack the basic resources to adequately serve our children. Schools all over the country lack books, and other materials, and are having their teachers and support staff laid off. Class size is on the rise and the school year is getting shorter as districts try to save money.

-The film argues that standardized testing is a strong indicator of teacher effectiveness. However, across the board, standardized testing scores mirror parental income and student background. Standardized testing also limits curriculum and only tests easily measurable subject areas, at the expense of arts, music, creativity, and problem solving.

-The film wrongly argues that unions are the main barriers to reforming public education. Educator unions do need to become more democratic and participatory. They do need to fight for social justice. However, before teachers unionized, teachers were unable to defend themselves from discrimination. Unions have historically played leading roles in improving public education, and most nations with strong public educational systems have strong unions, such as Finland.

-The film blames tenure for many of our schools’ problems. It falsely claims that teachers automatically get tenure and can practically never be fired. During our probationary years, we can get fired for any reason. Before we get due process rights (tenure), a principal must agree that we have earned it. However, we can still lose our positions, get ‘pink slipped,’ or fired after an impartial hearing.

-The film argues that teachers are the problem with public education, not poverty, racism, or lack of funding. In fact, the opposite is true. According to a report by the Department of Education, 90% of the variation in student test scores is due to factors outside of the teacher’s control. These factors include socio-economic status and race.

-Corporate interests cannot save education, any more than they have saved the economy, the environment (e.g. the Gulf of Mexico) and healthcare in this country.

We in Educators For A Democratic Union, a caucus within United Educators of San Francisco, denounce this film as an anti-teacher hit piece.

Ask most teachers what changes we want to see in our nation’s schools and you will hear:

•Real reforms driven by educators, students and families, not business
•Equitably funded, excellent public schools for all children
•Smaller class sizes
•Stronger ties with parents and communities
•Alliances to fight racism and poverty

We are organizing toward these ends now. We are not waiting for Superman.

For more please visit:

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Closing of Willie Brown

The Closing of Willie Brown

by David Russitano

In March, SFUSD identified 10 schools as part of the bottom 5% of schools in the state of California. Many of these schools are now in the spotlight as they are forced into major changes – most of which are business models that masquerade as educational reform. Predictably, these schools serve the communities that need schools the most – high poverty neighborhoods enrolling majority Black and Latino students that have traditionally been underresourced. One school has been chosen by the district to be closed so that it can be renovated. Willie Brown Academic Middle School will be shutting down at the end of the current school year. While renovation seems like a logical step, we should remember that the district spent millions to renovate Gloria R Davis in Bay View Hunters Point only to close the school for good the next year. This time they are closing BVHP's only middle school.

As reported in the Bay View (http://sfbayview.com/), "“I don’t see where they are going to get the funds to rebuild Willie Brown when the school budget is operating at a deficit. Building a new school is not the answer. We need to learn how to work with what we have first and improve that before we try to build new facilities" said Daphina Marshall, a parent and a resident of the Bayview Hunters Point community.

Ironically, Willie Brown has received money through the School Improvement Grant (given to each of the bottom 5% schools) and is using that $50,000 dollars to find students from Willie Brown "higher performing" schools to attend. I’m not sure why it costs $50,000 to look for better schools, but I am sure that school reform that doesn't come from the community will never be effective and will continue to leave parents, students, teachers and families feeling like reform is done to them, not for them.

Want to get involved? Critical parent meeting on Monday, Oct. 4, 5:30-7:30 p.m., in the Bayview YMCA conference room on Quesada and Lane Street.

A Teacher We Will Miss

Mission High School English teacher, Kathleen Cecil passed away suddenly on August 18th from a brain aneurism. Kathleen was a long time union activist and advocate for social justice. She was a member of the Executive Board of UESF where she constantly raised issues of justice and equity for students and families. In addition to her time as a SFUSD teacher, she also participated in the Bay Area Writing Project (BAWP), the California Association of Teachers of English (CATE), and Teachers for Social Justice (T4SJ). Kathleen also had a love for traveling and dedicated her summers to writing literature and to gardening.

She was brilliant teacher who dedicated her life to teaching. For her students and members of EDU (and the union) this is a tragic loss. She is an irreplaceable fighter and teacher and we will all miss her. We will do our best to hold up her achievements and continue the fight in her spirit.

EDU members and friends will be planning and fundraising to create a scholarship in Kathleen's name. Anyone interested in helping,emailsopben49@hotmail.com (Derrlyn)

Book Discussion Group on Diane Ravitch's The Death and Life of the Great American School System

Book Discussion Group on Diane Ravitch's The Death and Life of the Great American School System

by Aaron Niemark

A number of EDU members and other educators began meeting last spring to discuss many of the critical educational issues affecting all of us by reading Diane Ravtich's new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System. We saw the need to engage in discussions about Race to the Top and other national educational policies that are working to deprofessionalize education and disrespect students and families.

We met about once a month and discussed a few chapters at a time. I found myself better able to talk about these issues with colleagues and with families due to the book group. A next step for me is organizing a book discussion group about Ravitch's book and other readings on education policy with members of our parent and teaching community at my school site, Feinstein Elementary.

Our next book for the EDU discussion group is The Shock Docrtine by Naomi Klein. In this book, Klein discusses how human made and natural disasters have created a prime opportunity for those interested in exploiting such situations for profit and control. The first meeting for discussing, The Shock Doctrine (in parts) will be on monday november 1st, location (and amount of the book assigned) to be determined. If you are interested in participating please contact me at djgoldmyne@yahoo.com.

Fighting for Social Justice and Authentic School Reform

Fighting for Social Justice and

Authentic School Reform

By Nina Lawlit

EDU wants our union to bring members into the struggle for larger social and political issues and to work with allies in our communities to make things right for students, families and educators. A quality education for all students is a social justice issue. Diane Ravitch and others have made powerful critiques of the business-driven reform model for education that is dominating the conversation today. Business-driven reforms don’t work for schools; we want authentic change for education. In dialoguing and allying with families we can work to fully fund our schools and to transform them, deepening our relationships with our students, developing rich, well rounded curriculum and rediscovering the excitement of learning as opposed to the daily boredom of teaching and learning to the test.

On Sept. 3rd Amy Goodman hosted a good discussion of these issues on her radio show, Democracy Now!. It featured Karen Lewis, the new president of the Chicago Teachers Union, and Lois Weiner, an education professor at New Jersey City University. Karen Lewis talked about the problems of applying the business model to education. In the business model you select and discriminate; in public schools we do not discriminate, we take all students, and what we need are more resources and support for everybody there. And why, she continued, should we follow the business model? It brought us to “financial ruin and the brink of Armageddon in 2008,” unless of course, you’re a banker or a CEO Our unions are not, as the so-called reformers claim, against accountability. But, Lewis explained, high stakes testing is not a way to ensure accountability. Our urban neighborhoods have been under- resourced and devalued for decades. That’s what needs to be changed and our schools cannot do it by themselves.

CORE, a caucus of the Chicago Teachers Union, spent the last two years organizing alongside community members. The teachers and community started working together because they all saw the devastation caused by underfunding, and business-driven reforms. CORE was able to change the way the Chicago Board of Education was operating. They forced them to show up at community meetings and saved six schools saved from closure. Now CORE has been voted into the leadership of the Chicago teachers’ union – it’s inspiring.

When educators and community allies work together we build the capacity for social change. We want our union to lead the fight for authentic school reform and take on social and political issues. We hope we can link with the many teachers and community members who fight for social justice, but don’t see the union as a powerful leader in this struggle. We want to use the power of our union to fight for quality education for all students and for social justice for all educators, families and students. This means defending immigrant rights and fighting for public services and jobs that our communities need. There is a renaissance of social activism in educators’ unions in many parts of the country now. It’s exciting to think about our own activism within this main current for change

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Assembly Notes 9/15/10

Attendance: 55 - 65

This was the first Assembly of the school year. It took a while for people to show up but eventually the Assembly had an ok turnout. In general, I recognized most people there but there were a handful of new faces. Not a horrible first start, but also not an auspicious opening since the first meeting of the year is often more well attended than later in the year.

The Agenda tells everything about what UESF is all about right now...elections, elections, elections. There was a special order of business on elections and 7 of the 10 resolutions put forward by UESF involved election initiatives.

The meeting actually opened with a report on the new certificated member evaluation form put together by SFUSD and UESF. It's a very standards based evaluation form. It's sort of complicated, but it looks like a clearer form. If you don't know about it ask your principal to show you the DRAFT form and take a look at it.

After that, COPE director gave a speech on supporting Jerry Brown, Barbara Boxer, supporting Prop. 24 and 25, opposing Prop. B and UESF's 3 candidates for Board of Education. Then, the meeting took on a more organizing role as people were directed to 6 different staff members to get all the literature, to get a sheet where we do a voter questionnaire (and pitch) to each member at our respective sites and to sign up for two potential days of phone banking.

In many ways, what UESF did here is exactly what I think they need to do in general. Use the Assembly as an organizing center for our union. Problems....there was no time allowed for discussion of the relative merits of the various candidates. UESF endorsed and that's a done deal. It will also be a shame if UESF stops the organizing at the Assembly after the elections. There was more fire for action from our leadership this month than during our contract last year where it was very much 'wait and see'. There is little doubt Prop. B must be opposed and Prop. 24 and 25 must be supported. Kim Shree Maufus has been a fairly staunch union supporter and a supporter of progressive causes. Outside of that...questions arise (at least for me).

There was a resolution to support the Oct. 2nd mobilization to Washington DC calling on Washington to support a public works programs that will provide jobs during the recession. Great!

Next, were a series of resolutions on various election issues:

On opposition to a change in Health Service elections
Support of a Real Property Tax initiative - Tax on Office buildings and properties over $5million
Opposition to Prop. B -
Support of Election day registration
Support of Non-citizen voting in School Board elections
Support of Proposition J and Opposition to Proposition K - support Hotel Tax (J) and oppose effort to stop tax increase (K).

All these initiatives are good ones. The only problem was that all had already been acted on by UESF so there was no point in voting on them. They were made 'moot'. It moved the agenda along, but again, there really needs to be a way of involving more of our members in this process. Tom E. raised as much in the meeting. At the same time, I am not sure how this can be done short of organizing an August Assembly.

Next was the debate on the Oct. 30,31 Budget Cuts conference which was year 2 for the people who had initiated organizing around March 4th last spring. UESF agreed to send two observers. EDU argued for making those 2 observers "delegates", for UESF to endorse the conference and to send $100 to the conference organizers to defray cost for the Conference. The overall aim of EDU's amendments were to have UESF play a more active role in supporting the budget cuts conference.

UESF leaders pretty quickly challenged the idea of sending delagate idea saying that the democratic process of the conference was not clear. Lita urged a 'friendly' amendment for 'representatives' but to have UESF play more than an observer role at the conference. Dennis said there was no such things a 'friendly' amendment. So the discussion continued about 'representative' vs. 'delegate'. Nevertheless, in the time alloted for discussion the lines of debate were clear. UESF was fairly hostile to the students and groups organizing this and were unwilling to endorse without any endorsement from the SF labor Council or any other union. EDU was arguing that UESF play a leadership role by endorsing and play a more disisive role in making links with forces outside of EDU..particularly students and college workers affected by budget cuts.

15 minutes ran out just as the debate started. EDU argued to extend debate. The room ultimately voted against (24 - 21). Then the voting commenced,

Sending "delegates' or 'representatives". Failed . 28 - 19

Endorsing the conference. Failed. 27 - 19

Sending $100. Passed. 28 - 21

Votes are rough because I did not write them down. Overall, this was short of what EDU wanted but it was good and somewhat puzzling to see the Assembly vote to send money but not endorse. Overall, the vote reflects the divisions between PLC supporters and EDU supporters in the ASSembly. Each group seems to be hardening in response to each other in the absence of new forces in the room. That is my sense at least.

Still it was good to have the discussion and to talk about UESF's relationship to activism both within and outside it's union.

Andy Libson

Next the resolution on "Waiting for Superman" came up and both Susan Soloman and Dennis Kelly took the opportunity to speak on the movie and UESF action around it for approx. 8-10 minutes before the signatories to the resolution were called on to motivate it. Dennis also talked about how AFT is encouraging locals to not "just be in opposition" to the film but to talk about good schools that work. I motivated the resolution adding three things to the critique of the film a) not a single teacher interviewed b) no explicit raising of issues of race and institutional racism c) total union-bashing and the film makers and supporters know it. I also noted that the original resolution called for picketing and was more "oppositional" in its tone. I made the argument that we should be oppositional to the film AND accept and analyze critiques of the public school system (as opposed to not being oppositional and then being defensive about the state of US public education). I should have been more explicit that it seems problematic to put up two resolutions (this one and the October 30/31 one) that have been completely gutted and not note that in the resolution itself. Lita and I talked about sending a note to the office to request something along the lines of "Resolution passed AS AMENDED by the Executive Board" or something along those lines.

I did not move to amend this resolution (as gutted by the EBoard) because we decided at the EDU meeting that we will organize our own protest of this film and build it on our own. I felt very glad of this decision when Dennis made a point of saying that, "WE took the lead on this and had a flier ready for it even before AFT did and sent ours off to AFT to look at." It is because of EDU that UESF did anything at all around this film (sound familiar) and they squandered the chance to really organize something at that.

As to the reports:
No word yet on when EdJobs money could be expected to rehire people and get rid of furlough days - but this is what is likely to happen. Superintendent Garcia is reported to be willing to talk about rescinding the 5 certificated and 40 classified layoffs that still stand and the MOU that we signed with the district means that the district has to use new money to pull back furlough days.

Adrienne Johnstone

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Principals of School Reform



Sustainable school reform can only be achieved with the full collaboration of all stakeholders: parents, students, educators and administrators. There is no single blueprint for school reform. Each diverse school community should decide which reform model fits best, and adjust it to most meet its communities’ unique needs. We therefore offer the following principles for creating successful schools for all SFUSD students.

Consultation and Collaboration Among All Stakeholders:

· Historically, reconstitution has failed to transform at-risk schools. It removes valuable stakeholders – educators – from the reform process. NO RECONSTITUION or teacher reapplication.

· All stakeholders -- parents, educators, students and administrators -- must be active participants in school design and reform.

· Both current parties to the Consent Decree – SFUSD and the NAACP – should consider UESF a partner in meeting desegregation and academic achievement goals.

· Research on effective reform must be reviewed and utilized.

· District-wide data on student achievement must be reviewed by SFUSD, UESF and other key stakeholders BEFORE implementation of any site-level reform effort.

· The SFUSD-UESF contracts should outline protocols regarding school site redesign

Sufficient Resources and Support For a Healthy School Community:

All sites need adequate public funds for:

· appropriately credentialed teachers and paraprofessionals; literacy, technology, art, music, health and PE teachers

· nurses, social workers, counselors, librarians, and core substitutes

· books, supplies and the maintenance of a safe and inviting environment

· programs to meet the needs of all students, including: early intervention, GATE, AP, remedial, vocational and elective classes

· release time for collective planning and collaboration

· quality childcare, parenting classes, translation services and adult education

Accountability For All Stakeholders:

Sustainable school reform is built on respectful relationships. For each school site an open process with clear timelines and definitions of responsibility among stakeholders is necessary, including:

· SFUSD central administration should:

o honor the will of the educators and parents at each site

o use date other than high stakes testing to assess school and student success

o provide the resources necessary to each site

· The Board of Education should provide clear policy direction to school administration.

· Educators should implement standards-based instruction to meet the needs of all students.

· Students should take responsibility for their own learning.

· Parents should be accessible partners to their children and to teachers in the learning process

Adopted by UESF Assembly April 20, 2005

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

No on the Tentative Agreement

***Please forward this widely***

Many issues are important to the members of UESF but we in EDU believe that the issue of layoffs is the main concern of the members of our union. We are therefore urging UESF members to vote NO on the tentative agreement.

UESF members have been angered by SFUSD's hardball negotiating that threatens the livelihoods of our colleagues. Each of us in EDU (Educators for a democratic Union) heard members say they would be willing to make sacrifices to save the jobs of their colleagues.

EDU supported the UESF bargaining team when it made "No Layoffs!" the central component of their organizing campaign (as opposed to the important, but less central issues of 18 non-monetary, contractual items). During this campaign, UESF's leadership demonstrated that the district has the resources to rescind every single layoff. UESF called on the District to cut much deeper into the $52 million in consultant funds. UESF called on SFUSD to use a large portion of the nearly $40 million in reserves to preserve jobs.

The money was there but the political will was not. SFUSD did not take our demands seriously until UESF set a date (May 20th) for a membership meeting to authorize a strike vote. This single act helped communicate what we were willing to do to prevent all the layoffs. This, together with political pressure from families and students, forced the District to dramatically reduce the number of layoffs.

But SFUSD has not gone far enough. They still aim to lay-off up to 250 of our certificated and classified members. This is unacceptable. We in EDU are convinced that the money is there to save the jobs of the 250 brothers and sisters who work in our schools and have proven their dedication to our students and families.

Unfortunately, the UESF leadership pulled the plug on the strike-vote authorization meeting. This was a serious error. Until May 12, the UESF leadership maintained there was enough money to prevent all layoffs. What caused the leadership to back off from this position?

What does it say to our members when we ask all of us to "share" in making sacrifices, but then accept layoffs that would have some sacrifice more: their jobs and dreams of being an educator in SF.

Some will say it is irresponsible to dip into the reserves. The opposite is true: It is irresponsible NOT to use the reserves. A teacher or a para lost is a blow to our classrooms, to our children.

Replenishing the reserves would then be a major task of the union, the Board of Education and of the city and state officials. UESF could spearhead this fight, as it did in the streets of San Francisco on March 4. One of the main demands of that historic day of action, featured on the banner of the rally platform, was Progressive Taxation Now!

Five years ago, our willingness to strike resulted in an 8.5% raise. We were out in the streets with our communities on March 4th. The Oakland Education Association's recent one-day strike forced OUSD back to the bargaining table. Action works!

To that end, EDU will be urging all UESF members to vote "NO" on any tentative agreement that has layoffs in it. We do think it's crucial that every UESF member vote on the tentative agreement, so we will be abstaining when the Assembly votes whether or not to ratify the agreement on May 19. EDU believes that ultimately this decision must be made by the members: vote for the tentative agreement and accept 250 layoffs, or take a stand now to save all our members' jobs –vote no on the tentative agreement, go back to the bargaining table to demand that all layoffs be rescinded and authorize UESF to call for a strike.

Monday, May 3, 2010

UESF Assembly Report 4/28/10

UESF Assembly Report (4/28/10) - from EDU

Attendance – 55

Meeting Agenda:

Special Order of Business:

CALSTRS presentation


1. Bargaining Package
2. Jobs with Justice
3. Candidates for State Office
4. Support for AD12 & 13 Progressive Slate of Candidates
5. Support for Mello Roos Parcel Tax


The first issue of substance to come to the floor on the Assembly was the “Bargaining Package”. It’s message was exclusively on the non-monetary issues. “Whereas the SFUSD negotiators are seeking to deny UESF members non-monetary contractual improvements in difficult times” and finished off with “Therefore the bargaining team is directed to settle contract negotiations with a package proposal that addresses the various outstanding elements of the issues on the table”

This was vague to the extreme. Lita proposed language that added language on no-layoffs but the unions did not want to ‘tie the bargaining team’s hands” by instructing the BT to bargain from that position. EDU members pointed out that members could care less about the non-monetary issues and wanted most to see the layoffs resisted so the resolution should speak to that. Also, there was no real clarity on what the UESF would actually be fighting for or where the bottom line was.

In the end, I think EDU might have been better off to vote against this on the basis of it being so extremely vague but I think resolution was so weak and the room so deflated, it was not entirely clear what to do. The BT is operating so non-transparently and with such little oversight by the Assembly or even the Executive Board that we that we have sort of gotten a little used to meaningless resolutions like this which give the BT carte blanche to do anything. As it was the resolution won with an addition of ‘No layoffs’ in the whereas but no clear direction of the BT by the Assembly.

UESF unanimously supported entrance into the Jobs with Justice Coalition.

The issue of Candidates for State Office and for AD12 & 13 was skipped. The most provocative one was calling for UESF to endorse Jerry Brown for Governor and Gavin Newsome for Lt. Governor. When I approached Dennis K. about why these issues were skipped he told me that they did not need a recommendation or vote from the Assembly. He said a COPE endorsement and Executive Board vote was good enough. I am not sure that’s true but it was clear they would rather discuss supporting 2 candidates with lousy records on supporting public sector workers, supporting progressive taxation or public education. It was just unions throwing more money down the Democratic Party sink hole and doing it without any discussion by the Assembly.

We then had to wait through a long discussion about CALSTRS. Some of this was interesting, but you would know that our union is at impasse, in deep crisis organizationally, and about to make historically large concessions in its contract. This report could have been given any month not in the context of the deepest crisis our union has ever faced.

The Organizing section was clearly an attempt to try and breathe some life into our union which is on life-support. It seemed also to be led by the CTA organizer who was brought in. We broke up into 10 focus groups and were asked questions on where our sites were at, what questions were out there and what should UESF do now.

People should report on their focus group, but our facilitator got an earful. Members could care less about the 18 non-monetary items. Layoffs want clarity on layoffs. Members are not clear on what we are saying to counter SFUSD claim that they are bargaining in good faith. SFUSD has effectively gotten out the message that the union is the block based on 18 issues many do not feel are critical in comparison to the issues we face. Members need to see the union aggressively countering SFUSD propaganda with our own information. Members are deflated and don’t see the point of the going to school board. They need to believe they are getting a clear message from the BT and they are not. They get mush. I made a suggestion that BT members go on a campaign to visit school sites to rally members around the contract and around layoffs. There was some defensiveness around this at first but eventually our facilitator relented and just heard us. I did not see him writing much down though.

Finally, there was the President’s report. There the issue was clarified that UESF had offered $26 million in the form of 8 furlough days over two years and in terms of money from Prop. A. There are three mediation dates, the first April 29th and two more before the May 11th Board of Ed meeting. There overall plan seemed to again focus on another Board of Ed. Rally on May 11 before the Layoff deadline. . At the same time, As confused or inept as the BT is, we ought to be encouraging people to go to the May 11th rally. We don't have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines as 1100 union members face lay-off. I think EDU's main job right now is to try to hold the leadership to their commitment to NO LAY-OFFS

Finally, I personally was shocked at the complete lack of support for the OEA brothers and sisters going on their one-day strike. Dennis was polite it dismissing it, but VP Plack was positively derisive of their strike and their attempt to resist a contract being imposed on them. It was rich to a hear a union leadership which is doing nothing deride a union which has actually tried to mobilize a fight back (with whatever problems it has). Disgusting. And the complete opposite of solidarity or the spirit of an injury to one is an injury to all which is the backbone of unionism.

Thie was a miserable, depressing Assembly. Overall, the leadership seems to be completely isolated, is not willing to share information or strategy in any of the normal forums (Assembly or even Executive Board) and has just confined the decision making to a few people on the BT. This is a disaster and spells bad news for the coming bargaining under an imposed negotiator. Our union is no where near to mobilizing, our BT is isolated and confused and those of us who have been arguing for a different approach in EDU are now at a loss for how to proceed in the face of no vehicle for entering into decision making in our union.

Thie was a miserable, depressing Assembly. Overall, the leadership seems to be completely isolated, is not willing to share information or strategy in any of the normal forums (Assembly or even Executive Board) and has just confined the decision making to a few people on the BT. This is a disaster and spells bad news for the coming bargaining under an imposed negotiater. Our union is no where near to mobilizing, our BT is isolated and confused and those of us who have been arguing for a different approach in EDU are now at a loss for how to proceed in the face of no vehicle for entering into decision making in our union.

At the same time, as bleak as all this looks, Adrienne J. sent some words of encouragement that think are worth considering (here it is below)

"While I do agree that it looks like doors are closing with almost no way for the membership to get in, I still think it's important to emphasize to ourselves and others that EDU has continued to be a group that is asking questions, that is trying to push towards action, that is raising solidarity, etc. When we have to go back to our sites (if we haven't already) and report on the dismal state of affairs, there is a layer of people around us who are grateful to hear some straight talk, who want to come closer to EDU because they agree that this is the kind of conversation and organization it will take to even have a chance of building a membership that can fight for itself. Folks should know that Deirdre who came to our last meeting emailed me to let me know she has another coworker who might come to our next EDU meeting. I think I have a coworker who is closer to committing to checking out our next meeting. I wonder if most of us don't also have that 1 person, or 2 people that also might want to do the same. I think now is time to look around us and see who else is disgusted at this turn of events and might be interested in coming closer to our caucus."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Assembly minutes (3/17/10) from EDU

Assembly minutes (3/17/10) from EDU

Attendance 110 - 120

The Assembly was very well attended. It was not well advertised and the card I received only talked about “Constitution and Bylaws ratification and more’ so there was no publicized indication of the importance of this Assembly meeting. The improved attendance seems clearly a result of the March 4th organizing that went on before it, also it is clear sites came prepared with questions on bargaining, and I think the controversy over the union stance on Ethnic Studies and Dennis Kelly’s “Hitler Youth” comment clearly brought out partisans on both sides.

It was also the longest (ending at about 8pm), and ultimately one of the most contentious Assembly meetings I have ever been a part of in my 7 years of attendance. I will try and break down what I think happened and what it means below.

The Agenda was:

Special Order of Business

1) Election Committee Report

2) UESF Bargaining Report


3) Constitution/Bylaws Ratification Proposal

4) In support of Ethnic Studies (Part I)

5) Call for Apology by President (Ethnic Studies II)

6) Allegations Against the Union by the School Board Member

Dennis Kelly delivered a bargaining report which made it clear that UESF was trying to be reasonable about finding alternative money sources (particularly within parts of Prop. A that was not seen as essential). The District rejected virtually every proposal (both monetary and non-monetary) that the UESF made. DK was clearly painting a picture of SFUSD as being uncooperative and combative in its posture. He also seemed to indicate an awareness that UESF might have to respond with more than just ‘Blue shirts’.

EDU members spoke to the possibility of UESF giving more vocal support to sites refusing to sign on to cuts that are being asked to be made by SSCs (a part of the EDU strategy for fighting the cuts). UESF has already drafted a good letter giving legal cover for the act, and now steps could be made to build support for that by UESF. DK did not commit to such a strategy but they seem to be leaning toward it. In addition, UESF now seems to be behind building an activist presence at the next school board meeting on March 23rd (and building it as a member meeting to be updated on bargaining). This is a good step that had been pressed by EDU in a letter campaign to Dennis Kelly. At the same time, there seems to be no clear framework for bargaining put forward. If UESF members show up at the school board on Tuesday....what will the picket signs handed out by UESF say? No lay-offs? Cut adminstration, not educators? or "Two furlough days is enough!!!! or Increase our class size!!!just don't freeze our pay?

UESF leaders took some heat for already accepting furlough days at the bargaining table and giving in before SFUSD had matched our goals of fiscal transparency. UESF leaders countered that they needed to give ground to show ‘good faith’ bargaining and not to arrive at impasse and have a solution imposed from the outside. UESF seems to be committed to not going fast (a good thing) but also not really yet in organizing mode for preparing members to act (not a good thing). The bargaining team also seems to believe that ‘Time is on our side’. With 900 layoffs staring our members in the face, I am not clear how that is, but the union is also in not currently in a rush to settle and I think has been surprised by the hard line taken by SFUSD.

Still UESF leaders pressed on the notion of ‘fiscal realism’ and used the well-attended meeting to try and douse people’s expectation s of what could be done. EDUers countered very well with saying that “we should not be the ones being asked to make sacrifice, because we always are.” EDUers also gave an unapologetic defense of having a militant attitude and re-made the argument that we need not settle for layoffs and cuts (because the money was there, or could be found). This discussion was significant and found real audience in the room.

In particular, Jeramiah’s CAT proposal (more below): which shows “OUR BUDGET CAN BE BALANCED WITHOUT TAKING AWAY OUR CHILDREN'S TEACHERS, PARAPROFESSIONALS, NURSES AND OTHER SUPPORT STAFF!! These cuts would be felt on the administrative level and would leave our class size intact, and maintain the adult to child ratio that we currently have.”

This proposal generated a lot of interest. While Jeremiah’s motion to have this proposal endorsed by UESF was tabled because of the lack of information on it, there is clearly an opening to push CAT at the EB and next assembly as a viable alternative to the current SFUSD budget process.

The resolution on a ratification was passed without much discussion and seemed unanimous. This was a joint effort by Dennis K. and Tom E. and is significant in that it ensures that members will get a full vote on a new contract wither by ballot or membership meeting (if we get a quorum).

By 6:15, we finally arrived at the discussion on Ethnic studies and people were starting to leave but the room was still surprisingly crowded at this late time which showed people stayed to be part of this. The first resolution called for an unapologetic support of Ethnic Studies in the context of UESF raising some concerns of losing jobs if Ethnic Studies was adopted. This issue was raised again, but countered fairly successfully by the authors of the Ethnic Studies resolution. Also, some PLC members again expressed their irritation of having to wait until Ethnic Studies supporters had spoken at the Board of Ed meeting. There was clearly still only partial support for Ethnic Studies in the room. It did bring up a debate about the nature of institutional racism (does it operate within UESF). EDUers said it did. And about what the value of UESF support of such issues was in building alliances outside the union to our communities of color we serve. There was attempt to defang it politically which were unsuccessful and ultimately the resolution passed 35 – 20.

Which brought us to the apology resolution. Jerimiah introduced it and was simply making a statement of fact that DK did refer to the students as “Hitler Youth”, that he admitted it was unfortunate and apologized to individuals, and this admission should be made public and made to outreach to out students communities of color and people who fought for Ethnic Studies. Dennis essentially countered that his comment was taken out of context and that it was his opinion that this whole operation was politically motivated and led by Jane Kim to embarrass him and weaken the union. He cited (twice..ouch) an e-mail I had sent him that I had received from a teacher ally very early in the controversy in which Jane Kim expressed criticism of his remarks and urged UESF members to criticize the comments. This laid the basis for the strategy of calling for a substitution of the Apology resolution for the a resolution introduced by Sandra Mack to call on Jane Kim to apologize for ‘her’ allegations or racism against Dennis Kelly and called on UESF to file an ‘Unfair labor practice charge” against SFUSD if she does not respond.

This was clearly an attempt to deflect all attention that came to Dennis for his comment onto a Board member that UESF does not politically support. The worst thing though was as the allegations made that the authors of the ‘apology’ resolution were merely acting as Jane Kim’s political representatives and denying any political critique or outrage that came outside of Jane Kim (from our students, from other teachers or from community allies). Secondly, a PLC very quickly called the substitution to question before many EDUers or even Ethnic Studies representatives could speak to the substitution and their own independent anger at DK’s comments. This maneuver clearly raised the tension in the room significantly. Particularly after it passed 30 – 18.

Jerimiah called for a ‘point of personal privilege’ to counter any allegations that the resolution was a result of actions of Jane Kim. He was then hooted down and drowned out by members of the audience that backed the ‘call to question’ maneuver and was even approached by the Sergeant at Arms to take a seat an not speak. This was quite an ugly site to watch as a person who had reached out to Dennis (even in criticism) to resolve this was set upon by a loud mob. It was ugly, undemocratic and racist, plain and simple. The maneuver was even more exposed when the ‘substitution resolution’ was then tabled after it had removed the apology.

What to make of all this? This was an exhausting meeting. After putting these LONG notes together I do see that for all its drama. EDU is clearly having an impact on shaping the agenda of the union on bargaining. We should continue to press. To open up the debate on “No cuts, No layoffs, Emergency Funding Now!”. To call for the union to look at CAT as a budget alternative (which is something that shold be discussed and debated in EDU), to get UBCs and SSCs to reject their budgets and to get our union to actually call on its members to fight. The initiative around this is actually there and we should press forward on it.

On Ethnic Studies, there was a victory in getting it passed (although I was surprised by the resistance to it). As for the apology, we were outmaneuvered, but it’s worth remembering they had weeks to plan a strategy and EDU helped support this in the context of March 4thorganizing, supporting SSCs to reject budgets and taking on the attack against the “poorest performing” 12 SFUSD schools. I personally regret sending DK that e-mail when I received it but I did it in good faith at the time, and got burned for it. I apologize for that to our allies in Ethnic Studies and in EDU who fought around that.

This was a difficult meeting, but EDUers again comported themselves very well, and did not get into the gutter tactics that ultimately this meeting descended into. We were open about how we operated with Dennis the whole time and tried multiple ‘behind the scenes’ methods for resolving this and getting him to heal the damage from his comment. We were met with brick walls, with a surprise resolution and maneuver at the Assembly and then final by “Robert Rules” methods used to silence our members who had stayed hours to speak on the issue. It was a new low for the PLC.

Still, I believe we need to build March 23rd Board of Ed. meeting and push forward on the fight on the district. That is the priority and no matter the ugly end to the Assembly.