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Sunday, March 20, 2016

(Board of Ed) Will Wilma be happy with new teachers' union president?

Superintendent Anna Belin Pyles leads a budget forum
on March 10. (Yes, that's Dan wearing his bumble-bee jersey.)
(Image from the Plainfield Public Schools website.)

CORRECTION: In a text from a union member received late Sunday evening, the PEA membership actually stands at around 1,000 -- not 600 as noted below in this post.

The Plainfield school district was abuzz on Friday with news that the Plainfield Education Association (PEA) has a new acting president -- Eric Jones.

The announcement was made in a letter from the union's attorneys, Zazzali Fagella Nowak, dated March 17 and circulated to the union's members.

The Plainfield Education Association recently concluded an election by mail-in ballots for the office. The election, I have been told, was supervised by the state union (NJEA) to ensure compliance with the union's election rules. Once the balloting has been certified, he will be the president. (There have been allegations about the conduct of elections and other matters under former long-time president Kathy Cardona.)

Cardona was removed from office immediately, and members were advised that she has no authority to take any actions on behalf of the PEA.

The Plainfield Education Association represents more than 600 teachers, aides and support staff in the Plainfield Public Schools.

PEA members have complained for years of the manner in which the local unit has been run, and it appears the state organization has taken decisive steps to straighten out the Plainfield situation.

Among the complaints of local union members have been the arbitrary and capricious manner in which the local has been run -- including failure to properly notify members of meetings, failure to keep and provide accurate and timely minutes, and lack of financial transparency.

There are also suspicions that the leadership is too cozy with the schools' administration and that union elections have not followed NJEA rules.

In April of 2015, the NJEA sent a warning letter to the leaders of the local warning that the PEA was out of compliance with the NJEA's rules concerning affiliation.

In June 2015, another letter was addressed to the local's president, with a checklist of items to be addressed immediately. Sources say the local never addressed the issues or replied to the state organization.

As new president of the Plainfield affiliate, Jones will have his hands full on two fronts -- rebuilding the members' trust in the union leadership, and resolving issues with the FY2017 proposed budget.

In a presentation by Superintendent Anna Belin Pyles on Thursday, March 10 (see my post here), staff layoffs and a reduction in benefits costs were put on the table.

Though Belin Pyles seemed to back off at the March 15 meeting, some suspect that was only a ploy. Although it was promised that a revised budget proposal would be posted to the district's website, I do not yet see one as of today.

Will BOE board president Wilma Campbell be happy with the new PEA president? I don't see how she can be since, since Jones' mandate is to represent the members' interests in a more forthright manner than under Cardona's leadership.

I heard reports on Friday that Campbell was unhappy and saying that she would not "recognize" Jones as the union's leader.

I certainly hope that is not so. It is hardly any of Campbell's business who the union members choose for their leadership.

The public hearing on the proposed budget is slated for Tuesday, March 29 -- before which time the proposed revisions are supposed to be made public and posted on the District's website.

Interesting times ahead.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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mlogan28 said...

Actually, Mr. Jones was appointed by our representative council on Thursday. The election, run by the local election committee, will determine several offices including the president, who will begin his or her term on August 1. -Melissa Logan, elections chairperson, Plainfield Education Association