By Gabriella Landeros
This weekend’s Region 1 Leadership Conference, which had about 300 in attendance, was filled with energy, unity, and recommitment to fight for the support our students deserve. Leaders across Region 1 learned skills to effectively bargain, build a stronger union, organize for the common good, encourage democracy, and promote equity and justice for all students and communities.
Brannin Dorsey, who has been teaching in Fremont for 23 years and currently teaches first grade, was excited to connect with her colleagues all over the region. “Building that camaraderie and hearing about what’s going on in their districts makes me feel like we’re not alone, that we’re part of something bigger, and there are always resources out there to help.”
This weekend she was looking to learn more about how to get members motivated to participate in actions. “Going on three years, educators have really faced the most challenging years in their career and their time is very sacred to them. How can we inspire them to connect with fellow union members to make improvements to our working conditions and come together to make sure districts are doing the right thing and spending all the money they got from the state this year towards the students, and not tucking it away?” said Dorsey.
“Our members need people they can count on and trust. They need to know that people have their back and will advocate for them. Not only be their voice when they feel like don’t have one, but also help them find their voice so they can ultimately advocate for themselves at their school sites and with their principals to make sure whatever is happening at their school is best for educators and students.”
-Brannin Dorsey, Fremont Unified District Teachers Association President
CTA President E. Toby Boyd provided the keynote during the general assembly and thanked educators for their tireless efforts in leading and organizing during the pandemic. “Union Strong” came to mind as President Boyd thought of the wins members accomplished in Region 1 on behalf of students.
“It feels good to be seen and heard. By having meaningful conversations and dialogue, we can work together to accomplish anything… especially when the ones who benefit are the students… our students… the students we came to this profession to begin with.”
-E. Toby Boyd, CTA President
The general assembly provided a moment to honor and celebrate members for recruiting and maintaining strong members and for coming out strong on charter organizing campaigns and first contract successes.
For example, the Kentfield Education Support Professionals Association in Marin County organized their 35 classified members for the first time ever and won a contract that included a 7% raise, binding arbitration, and countless working condition protections that they have never had before.
Boyd gave a shoutout to chapters who won first contracts, such as South Bay Educators United, Unite Summit, and educators at Yu Ming.
South Bay Educators United’s first contract is the result of online organizing and bargaining during the pandemic by the member leaders at Downtown College Prep. The new union won great gains in sustainable work hours and reduced PD obligations, just cause discipline and dismissal, and language protecting shared governance on their site leadership teams.
The educators of Unite Summit fought for three years for their first contract, motivated in their words “by our love for our students and our school communities.” Summit’s contract fight yielded a strong first contract with major improvements to job security, paid family leave, and class sizes.
Educators at Yu Ming worked for more than a year to secure their first union contract, which included an average of 11% in salary increases, substantial increases to benefit contributions, job security, and reimbursement for green card costs.
Other wins spotlighted included the Coalition for Oakland Schools for the Arts Teachers and Staff (COSATS), who secured a much-needed salary increase from $52,000 to $60,000, and the ESP unit of the Coalition of Educators for Change, who secured more than a $3 per hour increase – exceeding their goal of securing $20 per hour.
Boyd highlighted CTA’s recommendations on candidates and important initiatives that support California students, schools, and colleges that will be on the November ballot. He also highlighted California’s commitment to community schools and why these schools allow us to reimagine public education by addressing long-standing inequities through family engagement, community partnerships, and shared decision-making. This program is especially important to support students in high poverty areas.
Andrea Reyna, who teaches eighth grade History, English, and Newcomer English Language Development at Cesar Chavez Ravenswood Middle School in East Palo Alto, was stoked about being at the conference. “In my local we also treat this as an Executive Board retreat, so we have an opportunity to bond with each other, spend time with each other, and plan and strategize. The Region 1 Leadership Conference is an opportunity for us to find different avenues where we can strategically pick sessions that fit our needs, whether that’s women in leadership or organizing for community schools because Ravenswood did get a huge grant from the state. It’s imperative that our local has the opportunity to be at the table when it comes to making decisions that are critical for serving the needs of our students in East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park.”
“I need to focus my expertise on the deeper levels of my role as bargaining chair, which are advanced bargaining strategies, grievances, and arbitration. What inspired me to take on this leadership role was the legacy of my predecessor – he is a legend within the community of Ravenswood. Knowing that there was such a need for the role and for someone to step into that position, I needed to, and I did,” said Reyna.
The conference showcased various vendors and exhibits. “One of the most exciting things about having the conference in-person, especially in the lead up to a huge election, is that I am here to represent CTA/ABC, which helps our locals with parcel taxes, bond measures, and school board races. We can inform members about how CTA/ABC can support them to be successful in all these political campaigns,” said Reyna.
CCA Board member Josie Malik works at San Joaquin Delta College and was representing the Community College Association to bring awareness to CCA. “A lot of K-12 students end up coming to our colleges across the state,” said Malik.
Leaders who graduated from the Ethnic Minority Early Identification and Development (EMEID) Program were also honored. EMEID identifies CTA members of color who are interested in expanding their roles in CTA. EMEID’s goal is to increase the number of CTA leaders of color in roles such as: President, Bargaining Chair, State Council Rep, Service Center Council Chair and Officers and any other respected leadership role/position. It’s a one-year program that started last summer. Three members from Region 1 who attended the conference were honored, and there are others across the state.
“I had a great experience with EMEID. I learned so much on how to be an effective leader in my chapter as well as the many opportunities available to me within CTA. I’ve made great connections and EMEID has increased my confidence in becoming a leader within the Pittsburg Education Association and CTA. I want to become a leader in my chapter and within CTA because I believe that teachers deserve to be treated with respect for the professionals that they are,” said Jessica Maran, who teaches first grade at Los Medanos Elementary School.
“I feel as if teachers do not get taken seriously because we work with children and because our profession is mostly made up of women. We are always told that we should ‘do it for the kids,’ but that is simply not okay. Teachers put their hearts, souls, and lives into their students and classrooms. We deserve to be respected with fair compensation and work in safe, adequate working conditions.”
-Jessica Maran, Pittsburg Education Association Elementary Vice President
James Lucas, who teaches Del Mar High School, was excited to attend the conference. “I’m relatively new to union leadership, so I’m kind of interested in figuring out ways to be more effective. We’re also in the middle of a couple campaigns right now. I’m looking for some ideas that I can bring back to the people who are running those campaigns.”
“Once upon a time, someone said to me, the world is run by those who show up. And ever since then, I’ve made it a point to show up and for things that I care about. I realize that if I don’t do something, who is? So, I’ve always chosen to get more involved.”
-James Lucas, Campbell High School Teachers Association Organizing Chair and Elections Chair
John Zabala, who is a Bilingual School Psychologist and used to work at Grant Elementary School in the West Contra Costa Unified School District, was really excited to attend after just having his first month under his belt as the United Teachers of Richmond President.
“I want to continue developing my skills at communicating our student-centered messaging and fighting for our students and getting those wins. The reason I decided to take on this leadership role was to fight for my colleagues, the mentors who have taught me things, the new people I’ve been working with, and the colleagues that I’ve kind of developed my career with. I really want to make sure that we get the things we need for our students in our schools,” said Zabala.
“It feels so good to be able to participate face-to-face at in-person CTA conferences this year. This weekend I am growing in my leadership and facilitation skills, attending sessions led by CTA staff trainers, and collaborating with other member leaders from across the region,” said Jen Drewek, who teaches 10th grade World History at Woodland High School. Drewek was also the Planning Committee Chair for the conference.
“Near the beginning of my teaching career, I taught at a couple of non-union charter schools, and I have experienced what it is like to work in a setting without collective bargaining and due process protections. This experience inspired me to take on a leadership role and to work closely with colleagues to organize the union at these schools, and to value my union membership highly, as I know what it is like to not be part of a union. Since moving to a job in a traditional public school district, I have maintained my commitment to leadership in our union because of the power we have collectively to create student-centered change in our classrooms. Our students deserve the best, and our work together as a union is creating improvements for students every day. I am proud to be a leader in our union,” said Drewek.