Intercepts

A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

AFT’s Florida Follies

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 31•15

This week the American Federation of Teachers took what it called a “rarely exercised” action by assuming control of the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association (OCCTA). Although, by the union’s own account, this has happened four times in the last seven years, which seems fairly frequent to me.

Additionally, AFT officials admit there was no financial impropriety in OCCTA and that Orange County teachers have suffered no harm from the ousted set of representatives. The local union reportedly negotiated one of the highest contract settlements in the state.

Orange County is the fourth largest school district in Florida, and it is interesting to see three more of the five largest districts have all had union dysfunction, ranging from questionable practices all the way up to criminal ones.

1) Miami-Dade – AFT placed an administratorship over the United Teachers of Dade after the Tornillo scandal in 2003, but the problems lingered. In 2006 the secretary-treasurer was summarily fired, and last year UTD was finally able to pay off the millions it owed AFT only through selling real estate and some loan forgiveness.

2) Broward – In 2001, Broward Teachers Union president Tony Gentile pleaded guilty to federal charges of attempting to entice a minor into a sex act and sending child pornography over the Internet. His successor, Pat Santeramo, was forced to resign after being charged with 20 counts of fraud and racketeering. AFT assigned an administrator to the local, who negotiated a quarter-million buyout with Santeramo. Elections since then have not gone smoothly.

3) Palm Beach – In 2012, the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association (PBCCTA) relieved interim executive director Tony Hernandez under mysterious circumstances, replacing him with Lynn Cavall, who had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of filing a false campaign report while she was director of strategic programs for the Broward Teachers Union under Pat Santeramo.

Cavall lasted until November 2014, quitting shortly after Kathi Gundlach was elected local president. Gundlach’s tenure began only after five months of disputed elections, during which the Florida Education Association – rather than AFT – placed an administratorship over the local. Gundlach appointed former PBCCTA president Theo Harris to the post of “interim assistant executive director,” which led to staff picketing because the opening had not been posted for other candidates.

Gundlach insisted Harris’ hiring was temporary, then assigned him the duty of vetting candidates for Cavall’s now-available executive director position. After examining résumés, Harris apparently came to the conclusion he was better qualified than any of them and applied for the position himself. And, sources tell us, getting it – although it seems PBCCTA has made no announcement in that regard.

Oh, and the remaining of five largest Florida locals might be the most unusual of all.

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AFT Deposes Florida Local President & Board

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 30•15

In the name of “holding sacrosanct the democratic rights of its members,” the American Federation of Teachers removed from office the duly elected officers and representatives of the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association (OCCTA) and placed a national administrator in sole charge.

The move was not entirely unexpected. Last February, AFT sent a monitor to the local to oversee operations.

In an e-mail to OCCTA members, AFT president Randi Weingarten specifically named OCCTA president Diana Moore as the cause of “repeated and deliberate anti-democratic violations of local bylaws and governance policies,” particularly those “to protect against the concentration of power in any one individual.”

AFT appointed Dennis Kelly, vice president of the United Educators of San Francisco, as administrator.

Moore told WFTV in Orlando her due process rights were violated.

“As a dues-paying union member, I was not afforded the opportunity to have representation all throughout this matter,” she said. “What I have tried to do is preserve the rights and due process of all members of Orange County Classroom Teachers Association. I’m shocked that the national union does not honor a paying union member’s rights to due process. Our members in Orange County are quite happy with their union. NEA has remained silent despite reaching out for support. This is all about members and money. They’re losing members and money in the national organization. It’s politics at its worst.”

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Former Union Officers Revolt Against NEA Trusteeship in Alabama

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 29•15

After months of silence and a media blackout, the trusteeship NEA placed upon the Alabama Education Association erupted into public view in a big way.

A group of former AEA officers and staff calling itself The Steering Committee sent a memo to NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia demanding an end to the NEA “takeover.”

Noting that the AEA board of directors did not have the authority to petition NEA for a trusteeship, the Steering Committee concludes “there are no grounds for NEA to occupy AEA.” Details of that process are also included.

“The AEA Board was told by NEA representatives the night of a regular board meeting that NEA already had the authority to place AEA under Trusteeship; and if the Board did not vote to request Trusteeship, NEA would place AEA under Trusteeship without a vote. Some, not knowing and others misled, the AEA Board voted 17 to 14 to carry out the NEA MANDATE,” the memo reads.

Federal law has very specific statutes regarding the establishment of union trusteeships, but NEA has managed to avoid them because of interpretations of the relationship between parent unions in the public sector and their affiliates.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards contends that NEA is not bound by the Landrum-Griffin Act’s provision for union trusteeships because the law does not cover the Alabama affiliate. This is a highly debatable view, since trusteeship regulations are placed on the parent organization, not the affiliate, and NEA is covered by Landrum-Griffin.

With no clear regulatory oversight, NEA trusteeships in Indiana, South Carolina and Alabama operate as they please, ostensibly bound only by the relevant sections in the union’s bylaws. The Steering Committee alleges even these were violated by NEA.

“Unfortunately, the letter that has been circulated is inaccurate and was designed to divert attention from the positive direction AEA is taking to support educators and Alabama schools,” said current AEA President Sheila Hocutt Remington. NEA has not issued a statement.

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Y2K: NEA Membership Numbers Essentially the Same – 15 Years Later

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 27•15

Click here to read.

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How to Grow NEA Membership

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 27•15

Minnesota – Between 1998 and 1999, membership increased 45.3 percent.

Florida – Between 2000 and 2001, membership increased 85.3 percent.

Montana – Between 2000 and 2001, membership increased 21.2 percent.

New York – Between 2006 and 2007, membership increased 856 percent.

North Dakota – Between 2013 and 2014, membership increased 17.1 percent.

I’ll explain what this means and how it affects our perception of the National Education Association in this afternoon’s communiqué.

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Alameda School Board Cuts Out the Middle Man

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 24•15

Dateline – Alameda, California:

A tie-breaking vote brought an end to an extended school board meeting Wednesday evening where Gray Harris was selected for and sworn in to the Alameda Board of Education to fill the empty seat of Nielsen Tam, who died of leukemia on May 24.

Board members were at a deadlock between Harris, a former Alameda grade school teacher and head of the Alameda Education Association, and Anne McKereghan, a Realtor who has served on the boards of the Alameda Education Foundation, Alameda Association of Realtors and the Alameda Boys & Girls Club.

…An Alameda resident for 16 years, Harris played a major role in contract negotiations with former Superintendent Kirsten Vital through her work with the Alameda Education Association. She left that position in 2013 to work with the California Teachers Association.

Each candidate had 20 minutes to give personal statements and take questions from the board. When asked by president Barbara Kahn how her involvement with the union might affect her decision-making on the board, Harris stressed that her role is “more of a resource position” rather than an advocacy one and that her decisions would be made based upon “what’s best for the students and teachers” and the district as a whole.

Harris’s “resource position” is that of a regional UniServ director. Part of her non-advocacy duties was this presentation on money in politics in which she asks, “What if we took the time to create candidates who wanted to change this system from the inside out?”

Best of all is this comment from July 2014 regarding a veiled post on an Alameda blog:

Here’s the story I heard from more than one source — Members of the AEA leadership approached [then-board president] Mike McMahon with a proposition. AEA would not oppose McMahon’s bid for re-election if he would do two things: 1) support the appointment of fellow board member Niel Tam as interim superintendent; and 2) agree to appoint former AEA president and current CTA staff member Gray Harris to Tam’s empty seat. That way Harris could serve on the board without having to face the voters.

What they did not tell McMahon was the next step. Once Harris was on the board, she would join with other board members and fire Tam so that they could appoint a union controlled superintendent.

Stories circulate all the time, but Harris is a created candidate, she now holds Tam’s seat, and she didn’t have to face the voters. New superintendent Sean McPhetridge shouldn’t get too comfortable.

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Defenestration

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 23•15

Now that Windows 10 is almost upon us, let me veer off-topic to ask: What does one do when Windows Update won’t update?

After a barrage of updates on May 12, my Windows Update keeps checking for updates endlessly but never finds one. I’ve scoured the Internet and applied literally dozens of of remedies, all to no avail. I’ve restored my systems to before May 12. Nope.

This week’s “emergency security update” was the last straw. Apparently nothing can be done without an operational Windows Update. I’ve spent much of the last two days working on this and now I’m asking why.

My Chromebook never needs to do any of this, starts up and shuts down in seconds, and works faster than my more powerful desktop.

So, dear readers, I ask if any of you have made the switch from Windows to Chrome on your desktop PC, and how did it work out? What was the biggest limitation? What aspects of Windows did you miss and what workarounds were necessary?

If all else fails, let’s demand that we keep Bill Gates away from Common Core until he can come up with a version of Windows that doesn’t induce blind rage.

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