CSO and teachers “Stand Up For Students” around state

The Bay Area may be one of the most developed places on Earth, yet there is still an undiscovered frontier in California.

Real justice in education for all students as yet to be discovered here, yet some CSO staff are working hard to help Region 1 CTA members and residents decide what it looks like and, ultimately, find it.

About 40 CTA members and CSO staff met at Westlake Middle School in Oakland Feb. 27 to become Partners in Advocacy in the form of a movement they call “Stand Up For All Students.”

CSO staff Katherine Clarke, Dawn Cova, Larry Spotts, Kathlene Beebe and Becky Flanigan developed and are leading the plan to put the people at the forefront to educational decision-making. They prepared a grant application and a plan to empower CTA members to protect their students’ rights.

And CTA members and the community are rising to the challenge.

“Members came to discuss their ideas for ensuring quality public education for all students and they worked together to develop strategies to help meet their goal ,” said Katherine Clarke, Primary Contact Staff in the Salinas Regional Resource Center. She said that many of the CTA member activists at the meeting have been working for years for educational justice, they simply needed a forum to come together and the coaching required to develop a well-organized “plan to win.”

Their goal is lofty: To Create a Movement to Build a Stronger Union to strengthen Free, Safe, and Quality Public Education for all Students based on Social, Economic and Political Justice. One of the first steps is reaching out to other organizations to build effective alliances in the community.

“Our attitude is “Si Se Puede,’” said Larry Spotts, PCS at the Concord RRC. “Our job as organizers is to empower our members to make change based on their values and priorities. It’s fabulous working with like-minded colleagues who want the same thing, because it made for a fantastic kickoff.”

Another next step are two forums for educators to learn about their rights and how to protect their immigrant students.

In southern California, CSO staff Helen Farias and Lian Shoemake, CSO Retired staff Steve Pulkinnen, and  Region 4 Organizer David Partida are working on a project in South County Teachers United.

South County Teachers United Social Justice Corps, also funded by a CTA Community Engagement Grant, kicked off this past Martin Luther King Holiday. That event brought together about 200 teachers and community partner organizations, ranging from immigrant rights groups to those supporting LGBTQ+ students.

“Several teachers have since partnered with these groups to host workshops on their campuses,” Farias said. “We are currently planning another forum focusing exclusively on immigrant rights, as well as developing an action plan for the May 1 Day of Action.”

Farias, in her first year as CSO staff at the South County UniServ, is leading the project. The goal is to engage members and to increase capacity and parent support, to increase the capacity of the union and involve members who are not typically involved in other union functions.

“There are a lot of new teachers who are passionate about improving public schools, but there is no vacancy for them to get involved in their union,” Partida said. “This is a place for them to get involved.”

There is also some excitement in Orange County – last year they formed a countywide PAC to run a countywide campaign for two County Office of Education Board members. They won one, and they lost one.

“That was ground-breaking and that progressed into what we are doing right now,” Partida said. He said the Orange County Service Center’s Organizing Committee has launched a promising organizing project. The goal is to identify new leaders. Partida conducted a training with about 40 organizing team members from several chapters who role-played one-on-one dialogues and built local plans for organizing.

“They have never been connected in this way,” Partida said. “They usually focus on their chapter’s issues and have not worked together. It’s a new opportunity with potential.”

 

 

The struggle today: Fighting for rights in 2016

Last October, when the Vice Principal of San Lorenzo High School called in the Alameda County Sheriff in an attempt to prevent CTA Organizer Memo Durgin from meeting with educators during their duty free lunch, SLEA and CSO knew we were in for a fight! One of the site reps at the meeting filmed the confrontation, with the  video going viral on Facebook.
Over the course of the last year, San Lorenzo EA leaders and 15 or more CSO staff have been working side-by-side at work sites to engage members and parents, as part of SLEA’s contract campaign. Located between the union towns of Hayward and San Leandro, San Lorenzo is a small unincorporated area of about 23,000, with a large Latino  population.
 SLEA members in Solidarity!
The bargaining dispute involves a salary increase that keeps San Lorenzo competitive
with surrounding districts so that quality educators stay in San Lorenzo. The District had 90 vacancies this year. Other issues include class size reduction for ELD students and
teachers receiving the same health care as administrators.
The overarching issue is insisting that teachers receive overall respect from Superintendent Fred Brill and the school board majority, who seem intent on polarizing the entire community.
As you might expect from such a situation, the District has stooped to new lows in their efforts to divide and intimidate members. These efforts have backfired. CSO staff have
recently concluded another round of site meetings as part of a big push for a very strong SLEA general membership strike authorization vote.
The results of that vote, announced on Tuesday, January 19, 2016 showed that 97% of San Lorenzo teachers authorized their leadership to call a strike, if needed, to secure the schools that San Lorenzo students deserve. Over 80% of San Lorenzo EA members participated in the vote. The fact-finding hearing will have occurred by the time you
read this.
If you see the San Lorenzo delegation to State Council, make sure you show them your support for their stand in support of the teaching profession and the students they serve.
Update: A tentative agreement was reached between SLEA and the District on February 4th. Read more here.