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Ballots that decide whether San Diego school administrators will seek a collective bargaining contract are trickling in, after roughly 300 administrators met last night to mull the question.

Visiting speaker James Dierke, leader of the United Administrators of San Francisco, said attendees seemed keenly interested in the idea. Unlike teachers, who are unionized, principals and other school managers lack the legal protections of a formal contract.

“They’ve been victimized,” Dierke said. In his remarks, Dierke advised them, “Superintendents have personal contracts, teachers have tenure — and school administrators have their good looks.”

School administrators in San Diego have traditionally been averse to unions, having clashed with the teachers union themselves in the past. Among administrators, some cite a general unease with the idea of collective bargaining, rooted in those past conflicts, and a self-perception as professionals, not agitators, president-elect Bruce McGirr explained.

The Administrators Association, which represents school managers such as principals, school police lieutenants and custodial supervisors, shied from the term “union.” Attorney Bill Shaeffer, who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, differentiated a collective bargaining unit from nationally-affiliated unions. Association director Jeannie Steeg reassured attendees, “We will remain as an association.”

Administrators have a year to return the ballots, but association leaders say they don’t expect the process to take that long. The two categories of workers included in the association — certificated workers, who are involved in instruction, and classified workers, who aren’t — will each vote independently. The decision hinges on a majority vote.

EMILY ALPERT

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