A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

Maryland NEA Affiliate: Teacher Union or Covert Op?

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Oct• 30•14

After the cloak-and-dagger events in Wicomico County, one would think the Maryland State Education Association would stay far away from such stuff for a while. But check out this allegation from the school board in St. Mary’s County:

The majority of the St. Mary’s County Board of Education has taken the unusual step of voting to recommend that the State Board of Education remove member Marilyn Crosby for “immorality, misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty.” School Board Chairman Dr. Sal Raspa, Vice Chairman Brooke Matthews and board member Cathy Allen voted for the resolution. Board member Mary Washington abstained; Crosby voted against it.

The resolution comes after the board hired an investigator at $300 an hour to find who was behind alleged leaks to the media of confidential personnel information.

The issue related to the candidacy of Assistant Superintendent Brad Clements to become interim superintendent and then his subsequent withdrawal from consideration.

The resolution states: “The independent investigator determined that all of the Board members, including Mrs. Crosby, had been provided with confidential personnel information in envelopes labeled ‘Confidential,’ to be reviewed and discussed during the Executive Session of the Board of Education and determined by a preponderance of the evidence that Mrs. Crosby provided copies of the confidential personnel documents, or at least their material contents, to the media and the MSEA UniServ Director without the knowledge or permission of the employee, which disclosure was in violation of Maryland Public Information Act and Board Policy BC.”

The resolution also says, “In disclosing the documents, Mrs. Crosby interfered with the effective operation of the St. Mary’s County Public Schools, interfered with the well-being of the employee whose rights were violated, violated Board Policy, and subjected the Board of Education to penalties under the Maryland Public Information Act.”

During discussion of the motion to approve the resolution, Crosby admitted giving the Enterprise a copy of Clemens’ letter announcing his withdrawal of candidacy, however she says there was no confidential personnel information contained therein. She flatly denies giving any information to or talking to Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) UniServ Director Liz Purcell-Leskinen.

There is far from enough evidence to draw a conclusion one way or the other. Clements withdrew his name from consideration because his candidacy – in his own words – “caused considerable controversy within the Board of Education, the community, and the employees associations.” However, the local teacher union president said she supported Clements for the interim position.

What we need is someone on the school board to leak the independent investigator’s findings. Which one should we call?


NEA Makes $550K TV Buy in Iowa

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Oct• 29•14

Eleventh hour ad against GOP Senate candidate Joni Ernst.


Teachers Unions and the War Within

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Oct• 29•14

No, that’s not the title of a CNN special report, it’s the headline over a piece I wrote for the Winter 2015 issue of Education Next. It’s on their site now, so get over there and read it.

While you’re there, you might also want to take a look at Alexander Russo’s “Teachers Unions and the Common Core,” especially in light of the latest Gallup poll.


CTA Hires The Sphinx

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Oct• 28•14

That’s the only explanation for an organizational exercise the California Teachers Association has been using at meetings of its activists. The union has embraced the concept of “appreciative inquiry,” which, the Internet tells us, is…

…about the coevolutionary search for the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them. In its broadest focus, it involves systematic discovery of what gives “life” to a living system when it is most alive, most effective, and most constructively capable in economic, ecological, and human terms. AI involves, in a central way, the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten positive potential. It centrally involves the mobilization of inquiry through the crafting of the “unconditional positive question” often-involving hundreds or sometimes thousands of people. In AI the arduous task of intervention gives way to the speed of imagination and innovation; instead of negation, criticism, and spiraling diagnosis, there is discovery, dream, and design. AI seeks, fundamentally, to build a constructive union between a whole people and the massive entirety of what people talk about as past and present capacities: achievements, assets, unexplored potentials, innovations, strengths, elevated thoughts, opportunities, benchmarks, high point moments, lived values, traditions, strategic competencies, stories, expressions of wisdom, insights into the deeper corporate spirit or soul– and visions of valued and possible futures. Taking all of these together as a gestalt, AI deliberately, in everything it does, seeks to work from accounts of this “positive change core”—and it assumes that every living system has many untapped and rich and inspiring accounts of the positive. Link the energy of this core directly to any change agenda and changes never thought possible are suddenly and democratically mobilized.

Heavy, man.

CTA hopes appreciative inquiry will…


The tagline reads, “You cannot think your way into a new way of acting, you have to act your way into a new way of thinking.”

Which is what reminded me of The Sphinx, a costumed hero from the film Mystery Men. The Sphinx routinely spouted such pearls of wisdom as “When you doubt your powers, you give power to your doubts” and “He who questions training only trains himself at asking questions.”

So expect to see this soon in CTA promotional material.



Teachers Unions’ Last Chance to Repopulate Ranks of Friendly Governors

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Oct• 27•14

Click here to read.


High Roller

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Oct• 27•14

The Las Vegas Review-Journal has a detailed exposé of elaborate machinations in the Clark County School District involving board members, insurance consultants and John Vellardita, the executive director of the Clark County Education Association.

I encourage you to read the full story, but the short version goes like this.

In 2011, the district hired Business Benefits, a consulting firm, to negotiate a new deal with United HealthCare to cover education support employees. The firm delivered, getting coverage with significantly lower premiums. District teachers, however, were being covered by the union health trust, and CCEA refused to join support employees in one big plan.

Last year, the union changed its tune – on the condition that United HealthCare was dropped in favor of the CCEA trust, and the unified plan was administered by Vellardita in place of Business Benefits.

The district refused – sensibly since the trust is operating at a loss – and soon after Erin Cranor, school board president and union ally, began making accusations of kickbacks and bribes involving Business Benefits and other members of the board. She received a sympathetic ear from new superintendent Pat Skorkowsky, who abruptly canceled the Business Benefits contract at the end of 2013.

One problem: The contract required a six-month cancellation notice, and Skorkowsky gave one day. Business Benefits sued the district for breach of contract, and Cranor as an individual for instigating the action, allegedly on behalf of CCEA.

Last month, Cranor sent a $100,100 settlement check from district funds to Business Benefits – not to drop the suit, but to drop her from the suit. She did this without the approval, or even the knowledge of the school board.

You can’t idenftify the bad guys without a scorecard, and there don’t seem to be any good guys. It’s a picture of school district operations that doesn’t include the interests of students, teachers or taxpayers.


A Teacher Union Parable

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Oct• 24•14

The Mercy Home for Boys and Girls held its 23rd Annual Ringside fundraiser in which local businessmen box each other to raise money for that charity. To his great credit, Chicago Teachers Union field representative Joey McDermott agreed to take part.

Mark Konkol of DNAInfo Chicago described what happened next.

One fighter — the only union man on the fight card — particularly caught my attention, Chicago Teachers Union field rep Joey McDermott, a tough talker who also claims to be a tough guy.

“I don’t do yoga to start my morning,” McDermott once told me. “I box.”

Saturday night, McDermott appeared ready to dish out a beating when he climbed into the ring to battle Jake “Dyn-O-Mite” Walker of banking giant ABN AMRO.

I asked McDermott’s pal, CTU staff coordinator Jackson Potter, if he thought the stocky representative of corporate America would symbolically squash the workingman during the three one-minutes rounds.

“Not at all. Joey bleeds CTU red. He’s going to come out on top,” Potter said. “I guarantee it.”

At ringside, McDermott’s long-time pals David Kaplan and Israel Martin weren’t so sure some of that CTU blood wouldn’t spill in the ring.

“Joey does overestimate his talent. That’s all I’m going to say,” Kaplan said. “With wearing headgear I’m not saying he won’t lose blood, but it’s less likely.”

Shortly after the first bell, “Dyn-O-Mite” Walker exploded with a flurry of punches that sent McDermott — wearing red boxing trunks and a CTU red tank top — immediately shuffling backward until his back hit the ropes.

By Round 2, a man in a very expensive suit surrounded by ladies in sparkly party dresses at ringside looked up from his cocktail just long enough to see the action and state the obvious about McDermott’s performance, “Man, the guy in the red is getting killed.”

To be fair, McDermott landed a few good shots, too. But in the end it wasn’t enough. He left the ring literally a beaten man, his face flushed from getting punched. He only succeeded in not bleeding CTU red.

“How do you feel?” I asked.

“Like [bleep],” he said as he walked through the crowd hanging his head in disappointment.

Lest you think Konkol was being unfair, he posted video of the first round.

That’s raising union-bashing to another level.