Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I didn't see this coming: CTA's Gail Mendes triggers a power struggle in Burlingame

See all posts re Richard Werlin.

UPDATE: Gail Mendes elected; teachers contemplate recall.

In a highly unusual move, the sitting secretary-treasurer of the California Teachers Association has been challenged by the former president of United Teachers of Richmond, Gail Mendes.

My own familiarity with Ms. Mendes came about when I did a Google search a couple of years ago to find out what happened to Chula Vista Elementary School District's Richard Werlin, an administrator who disappeared around the time I tried to take his deposition. He turned up at West Contra Costa County Unified School District (Richmond Schools have been called WCCUSD since they went bankrupt a few years ago).

Apparently Ms. Mendes was a good pal of Mr. Werlin at WCCCUSD, even calling him during his vacation. Ms. Mendes was also known for her disapproval of teachers who spoke their own minds.

Richard Werlin disappeared suddenly from WCCCUSD right after the Jennie Mo case blew up. Werlin has a history of instructing principals to call the police if there is the slightest suspicion that a teacher might talk to the press. It seems that teacher Jennie Mo complained about bullying at the school, and the staff was displeased about it. Jennie was put on administrative leave when she wouldn't shut up, but she didn't vacate the premises fast enough, so the police were called. The officers stormed the library where Jennie and her 7-year-old students were located, hauled the teacher away in handcuffs, and jailed her for a week with bail set at $900,000.00 ($50,000.00 for each of her "hostages" (students)). Jennie was released when the District Attorney declined to press charges.

Perhaps the district felt that Mr. Werlin could have handled the situation with more discretion. Gail Mendes, on the other hand, never made a peep regarding the startling event.

I suspect that Mendes has the support of CTA director Jim Groth, who worked closely with Richard Werlin at Chula Vista Elementary School District. Jim Groth is famous for demanding that teachers stay "on message" and for looking the other way when administrators violate the law.

Richard Werlin currently has a temporary position at Compton Unified School District.

1 comment:

Progressive Teachers said...

Gail Mendes' tenure as President of UTR was counter to prinicples of union democracy. rank and file and UTR board members' rights were trampled on (a UTR board member described her leadership at rep council was "fascistic"). During a UTR election a first time candidate was running for a position on the executive board. This candidates name was left off the ballot. Mendes went to the candidates school site unannounced and strongly suggested that the candidate withdraw from the race. Unsuspecting any foul play the candidate agreed. Some UTR members wrote letters to then Vice President, David Sanchez about Mendes undemocratic hositle leadership. A UTR member at Mendes school described her as "dangerous." I filed a complaint with the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB) charging Mendes with these abuses of office. November 30, 2006, Mendes reported me to Rick Werlin, WCCUSD Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources demanding that he discipline me for an alleged contract violation. Mendes' action, asking a boss to punish a fellow teacher and an Association member would be universially reviled and condemned by any class conscious union member. I met with the UTR Executive Board and asked that she resign her position as President. On another occassion Mendes interfered with members right to elect a site representative of their choice. She had the election overturned. When CTA members learned Mendes had been elected Secretary-Treasurer, one member said, "it's time to get out." CTA members who decided to "send a message" and vote for Mendes, made a mistake that they will live to regret. The only way to correct this mistake is through a RECALL campaign. I would not wait two years.
Diane Brown, CTA Member