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It’s been a big couple of weeks for the local teachers union.

A few days after we published this story about the union’s increasingly hard-line and isolated stance, the San Diego Education Association held a well-attended press conference at which they threw down a gauntlet to the school district.

The union urged the district to stop participating in what union officials called a “broken budget system,” that requires the district to issue hundreds of layoff notices to teachers, the bulk of which are usually later rescinded.

The district, union and Assemblyman Marty Block then began moving toward a bill that would change the state law that requires the district to issue layoff notices before they know what the state budget will look like.

Yesterday, the teachers union stepped away from that deal. Its stance has upset some local teachers, who say the union has botched an opportunity to mend fences with the district while at the same time pushing forward legislation a majority of teachers want.

Late last night, I got this letter from two teachers at Marshall Middle School who are concerned about the direction of the union at a critical juncture for the district. The teachers, who are meeting soon with SDEA President Bill Freeman, want to see more cooperation.

Here’s a snippet (I’ve posted the full letter below):

As educators, we recognize that our classrooms and the learning within is most successful when we embrace the idea of working together to collaborate as we problem solve. Part of this respect comes from recognizing that each person within the classroom has strengths that they can offer in order to achieve the overall goal.

As members of SDEA, we are embarrassed to see that these simple ideas that go to the very core of what we try to foster and develop within our students, helping them become successful adults willing to work with and learn from others, is the opposite of the values SDEA has repeatedly shown in the last two years.

But the real eye-opener for me was the flurry of reader comments I’ve been reading today on last night’s post. One comment, titled an “open letter to Bill Freeman,” was left by Mary Laiuppa, an educator, union member, vociferous commenter and near-constant critic of the district.

This time, Laiuppa, whose past comments have praised the union’s hard work, aimed her vitriol at the union president:

The union had a great opportunity here and it was just destroyed. Don’t tell me the teachers voted against this. No, this was a decision made by the SDEA elites. Sorry but this foot soldier isn’t going to roll over and kow tow.

And I’ll bet I’m not the only one.

This was a BAD decision. And when it hits the fan I’ll be the first to shout “told you so” when the fallout starts to bury the union.

Won’t be going down to the offices to make phone calls, stuff envelopes, attend candidate meetings or walk neighborhoods.

And I’ll bet I’m not the only one.

I’m sure there will be more comments. What do you think? Are you a teacher? Do you support the SDEA’s position? Or are you concerned?

Would you like to see the union support the legislation to extend the layoff deadline?

Get in touch!

♦♦♦

Here’s the full text of the letter from the Marshall Middle School teachers:

Dear Mr. Freeman,

As educators, we recognize that our classrooms and the learning within is most successful when we embrace the idea of working together to collaborate as we problem solve. Part of this respect comes from recognizing that each person within the classroom has strengths that they can offer in order to achieve the overall goal.

As members of SDEA, we are embarrassed to see that these simple ideas that go to the very core of what we try to foster and develop within our students, helping them become successful adults willing to work with and learn from others, is the opposite of the values SDEA has repeatedly shown in the last two years.

We would like to see the union represent the thoughts of all teachers within the SDEA and take the following into thoughtful consideration:

1. Employee Concessions

With the recession lasting longer than expected when the contract was first negotiated with San Diego Unified, we would like to see the union be willing to address employee concessions. We believe smaller class sizes staffed with more employees is worth continuing our 2.7% reduction in salary, furlough days, and possible cuts in health care. Not only would this benefit the teachers currently at their sites working within their communities, but also to the students whose learning will be most greatly affected.

2. June 15 Deadline

While we do believe it is important to know as soon as possible as to whether or not a person has a job for the following year, the layoff notice issued by March 15 seems presumptive. Pushing the deadline back two months allows the district to be more realistic with layoff notifications and allows teachers to focus on the classroom rather than on the stress and uncertainty of returning the following year.

3. Seniority

The quality of an educator’s teaching should not be judged by either their inexperience or experience. It is time to create an effective and fair method for evaluating teachers based off of their classroom performance rather than the security of years. The union represents the majority of teachers, who happen to be experienced, yet every year it is the inexperienced minority who are not protected. Just as our students and every other profession are judged solely upon performance, so should teachers. This will ensure that quality teachers remain in classrooms to provide a quality education.

‘Together We Are Stronger’ means we are willing to represent a generation of new teachers and to adapt to the current culture. The current cycle of pink slips and layoffs for new teachers has continued, and will continue, until we are willing to work with each other as professionals. We strongly believe that the three proposals listed above meet the best needs of our students, the reason we all became teachers to begin with.

Sincerely,

Erin Schumacher and Kaitlin Rosichan

Thurgood Marshall Middle School

Will Carless is an investigative reporter at voiceofsandiego.org currently focused on local education. You can reach him at will.carless@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5670.

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Will Carless

Will Carless was formerly the head of investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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