CTA President Talks of Victories and Challenges
In the State Council’s first time back in Los Angeles since last spring, CTA President Dean E. Vogel devoted a good part of Saturday morning address to thanking Council members for their part in November’s historic election victory.
“Faced with attacks on our rights as union members, our rights to be involved in politics, and the threat of deeper budget cuts, you stepped up and took on the challenge,” he said.
“We sent a clear message to corporate billionaires ... that they weren’t as special as they thought. One of the most impressive victories came with the passage of Proposition 30, an initiative we helped the governor put on the ballot.
“It was looking pretty dicey just a few weeks before the election, but with your hard work back in your communities, we were able to stop another $6 billion in cuts to our schools and colleges,” he said. When everyone said it couldn’t be done, Californians voted to raise taxes.
Vogel said he was further encouraged by the governor’s State of the State message, which he called a very good start to the new year. With the election behind it, CTA is now going to take a long look at the organization, review goals, structures and practices, Vogel said. This strategic planning process — titled “Your Voice. Our Union. Our Future” — is being facilitated by the Labor Education and Research Center at the University of Oregon with the goal of making sure CTA is positioned in the best possible way to help all students and educators.
To that end, CTA members and staff are being urged to voice their opinions about the organization in an online survey.
“We’ve definitely got our work cut out for us, but it is exciting work and is crucial to building the union we all want for our future,” Vogel said.
Noting the days leading up to State Council had included the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, the Day of Service for the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the State of the State speech by Governor Brown, Vogel said it had been a week to commemorate, to celebrate and to contemplate.
“We are still in a challenging time, one that includes horrific school shootings, increasing poverty levels, climate change, and a host of ills. We, as educators, are involved in all of that. We can’t turn away. And we won’t. It’s not in our nature,” Vogel said.
“I’m very optimistic about the future. We have many challenges but we have always risen to meet them as educators, as CTA members, and as citizens, and we’ll continue to do so,” he said.
Watch a video clip of Vogel’s remarks.
CTA Executive Director Urges Council to Continue their Resolve
No one was more thrilled about CTA’s election victory than Executive Director Carolyn Doggett, who put in time throughout the campaign phone-banking and precinct walking. Doggett reminded State Council during her remarks Sunday morning that “we must keep the enthusiasm, purpose and resolve of 2012 alive.”
“Whether it’s teacher evaluation, school safety, due process, affordable college, intellectual freedom, online learning, tax fairness or school funding, there will be a number of political issues that demand our attention. And political issues are classroom issues,” she said.
During the coming months and into the future, Doggett urged the 700-plus Council members to engage in our local communities and to talk to parents and community groups about what’s important for our public schools and colleges.
“We must speak the truth about public education and about those who want to destroy it,” Doggett said. “We must reach out to new members and members of color to engage them in the work of the union. We must continue to lead efforts to improve the teaching profession. And we must continue to fight for those students and schools that need additional help.”
Watch a video clip of Doggett’s remarks.
State Council Celebrates November Election Victory
On hand to help CTA’s State Council celebrate its astounding election victory was Gov. Jerry Brown, who championed the effort statewide to pass the Prop. 30 tax increase.
Also joining in the celebration were representatives from CTA’s coalition partners, Willie Pelote, assistant director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and Lou Paulson, president of California Professional Firefighters. Sending their thank-you messages to CTA via video messages were NEA President Dennis Van Roekel and Yvonne Walker, president of SEIU local 1000.
Brown won over his audience with his engaging anecdotes from his own days as a student, as well as with praise for educators. “It’s the fire you light, it’s not the program sent you by some international publishing company which is going to make the difference. As a teacher, you have a lifelong impact on your students.”
CTA Board member Michael Stone and Tim Sbranti, a Dublin Teachers Association member who chaired the CTA election workgroup, said CTA “broke the mold” for organizing and voting, with an incredible 90 percent of CTA members showing up at the polls around the election. Not only did Prop. 30 pass and Prop. 32 fail, but election results showed that every proposition CTA supported won as well as 26 of the 28 local parcel taxes and school bonds supported by CTA.
Mikki Cichocki-Semo re-elected as Secretary-Treasurer
San Bernardino teacher Mikki Cichocki-Semo was re-elected to a second two-year term as secretary-treasurer of the 325,000-member CTA. Running unopposed, Cichocki was elected by waiving the ballot.
“I’m so honored to represent California’s dedicated educators and to continue CTA’s advocacy for education reforms that improve teaching and student learning,” said Cichocki-Semo.
Council Readies for CTA’s Sesquicentennial
The CTA Anniversary Committee, chaired by Secretary-Treasurer Mikki Cichocki-Semo, presented a few highlights from CTA’s history. CTA’s 150th anniversary this year will include a mobile museum, an oral history project, regular stories in the Educator highlighting CTA’s history, and a celebration banquet at the State Council in fall.
Council Votes to Oppose Arming Educators
Taking a stand to make California’s public schools safer and even more secure, State Council voted to oppose any efforts to arm educators across the state, and is supporting Senator Dianne Feinstein’s legislation to ban military-style assault weapons. Delegates approved new policy opposing “the arming of non-law enforcement educational professionals or volunteers on school campuses or at school-related functions.”
In other action, Council:
• Voted to direct the CTA Board of Directors to take immediate action and sign on to the National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing, which builds on the work of education historian Diane Ravitch and unites teachers and other school works in a powerful statement that testing is not teaching. Numerous groups have already signed on to the resolution.
• Celebrated the upcoming Read Across America with a presentation and book signing by Rafael López, who illustrated this year’s children’s book selection, Our California by Pam Muñoz Ryan. Read Across America will take place March 1 this year.
• Honored Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship winner Lovell Devon Smith, a fifth-grade teacher and member of Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association who is pursuing his doctorate in education at UCLA. Council also honored Martin Luther King Jr.’s memory during a reception Saturday evening in which local school students were featured in special performances.
• Re-elected by waiving the ballot Colleen Briner-Schmidt, NEA Director Dist. 5; Sonia Martin-Solis, NEA Dist. 6/14; and Sergio Martinez, NEA Dist.13; and elected Krista Patterson, NEA Director Dist. 4.
• Elected by ballot: Ken Tang, NEA Alternate Director, Seat 2; Erika Jones, NEA Alternate Director, Seat 3; Clete Bradford, CTA/ABC Committee Member, District G; Carole Bailey, CTA/ABC Committee Member, District O.