By Bill Guy
Vicki Soderberg (right) with Chris Elliott and Bobbi Martin
“In the 35 years I have taught in the Capistrano Unified School District, I would never have thought that we would be forced to a strike, and I never, ever want that to happen again,” says Capistrano Unified Education Association President Vicki Soderberg. “We have to work to ensure that it doesn’t,” she adds, explaining the urgency of CUEA member participation in the CUSD school board race in the south Orange County district.
In the spring of 2010, over 2,000 CUEA members went out on a three-day strike when the school board rejected a fact-finding report and imposed a punitive contract, in effect trying to dismantle collective bargaining.
Seven months later, CUEA members successfully organized a communitywide effort that recalled two sitting board members and elected three candidates who are friendly to public education.
“Two of the three CUEA-endorsed candidates are up for re-election. In all, four out of seven board seats are in play,” says Soderberg. “The opposition to education-friendly candidates — with ties to and potential funding from Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst organization — is taking particular aim at CUEA.” If the three opposition candidates should win, CUEA members fear they would join with the two remaining board members who forced the strike, forming a five-person majority.
“A recent telephone poll conducted with local voters revealed that they want to hear from teachers in regard to school board issues,” says Soderberg. “They trust us to know what is best for our students and our schools.”
CUEA officers and site rep council members are informing and organizing CUEA members — most of whom were out on the picket lines two years ago — to tap the tremendous community support that helped them get a fair contract, ending the strike and turning over the school board that fall. Campaign activities include direct mail pieces, phone banks and precinct walks.
“I’m confident that our collective voice will resonate with the voters, just like it did two years ago,” says Soderberg, adding, “CUEA is a strong organization because our individual members’ commitment to excellence in education extends beyond their classroom doors. We realize that the future for students of Capistrano Unified depends on that commitment, now more than ever."
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