Letter from Attorney John Due

Regarding the duty of parents and community to be engaged in the affairs of the UTD, such as election of officers and other business


I agree with Tangela.  Parents and community should be engaged in the affairs of the UTD in the  election of officers and other business, such as negotiations of the teachers' contract.  She is correct that it is impossible to separate the roles of the teacher and the parent because, the teacher is a quasi parent as the parent is a quasi teacher.

I supported Charlotte Greenbarg, an activist 14 years ago, (she has since moved to Broward County), when she was president of the Dade County PTA-PTSA.  She advocated that organized parents should have a seat at the bargaining table regarding the negotiation of teachers-school board contract.

The contract is critical, because the UTD has been recognized to assert provisions regarding management o f the school system in regards to quality education.

But this process is unfair to parents and the community  because it is a closed process  between the union and school board negotiators -- the product thereof being a proposed teachers contract which is voted up and down by the school board without the public given an opportunity to know its provisions and discuss its provisions in a public meeting..

On the other hand, I support organized teachers using the union to promote the development of policy and program of providing quality education because they are in position of having knowledge, skills, and commitment to know what is best for our children. 

They have the duty to assert what they belleve is best for our children. But at the same time, there must be more accountability to the community.  The old days of collective bargaining are over, where the first clause of a proposed labor contract was "non-interference with management prer ogatives." That is good. 

The future of labor union contracts is to expand the role of unions in management in order to produce a better quality of service. But as Charlotte tried to do before she was pushed out by both the union and school board bureacracy,  parents as consumers must also be part of the future of labor relations.

The community should know who the candidates are for political offices in the union, and what is their commitment, knowledge and skills.  The community should be a voice of concern in the process. 

The argument that the public has no right to "interfere" in the private business of the union is hogwash because the union is a public entity recognized by labor law to organize and represent its members, and if it violates its public trust, it can be decertified.

The reality is that there is a conservative movement for accountability which is leading towards performance based contracts for teachers.  This will have  a serious impact upon many Black teachers who are not given the resources to help their underclass children to achieve.

Black teachers are over-represented in numbers compared to others as members of the union because they see the union as a means of protection against losing their jobs.

There is no longer any court order which requires a quota system of Black and white teachers.

The best protection for the Black teachers is to actively invite the community into the labor relations between the union and school board so that there will be fairness in negotiating high quality education for all children in a partnership between the teachers, the school board, and the parents. 

Those teachers, Black, White, or Latino, who are not prepared to love our children by any means necessary need to be moved out.

Tangela -- you are right.  You and the community need to know what the teacher leaders stand for.  Then move to the bargaining table.

[bp:  Parental representation is enormously uncertain in Dade today.  The countywide PTA mostly represents affluent parents.  Low-income parents in the PTA are mostly either subservient to the school system or quickly bought off.  

Tangela's group has not been proven to be a stable, large membership organization.

The closest thing to true grassroots organization among parents is PACT -- a group based on churches in low-income communities.  They have done a good job in pushing for Direct Instruction as the basic reading program for the primary grades.

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The community does need to keep its eye on the UTD.  Tornillo was at the center of sleazy lobbying and vendor contracts in the school district for 40 years.

We cannot go back to that.

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It is possible that a latent School Board majority exists right now which is in favor of breaking u p the district.  They will wait to make their move when troubles come.

The election of Shirley Johnson would give a lot of ammunition to those who argue that the MDCPS is hopelessly tainted and worthy only to be shut down.

On the other hand, if Spotlight wins the top offices and then Blacks leave the union in considerable numbers, the weakness of the UTD might also help to provoke the breakup of the union.

Whichever way it goes, both the UTD and the district are in big trouble.]
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