Sunday, May 27, 2012

Camille Zombro goes off: she appears to want power for herself, and silence from rank-and-file teachers

See all Camille Zombro posts.

Teachers Union President: No Concessions Planned
Updated: May 25, 2012
By Will Carless
Voice of San Diego

Bill Freeman, president of the San Diego Education Association, just called to respond to claims made yesterday in an extraordinary open letter from Camille Zombro, the former teachers union president.

In her letter, Zombro heaped criticism on Freeman, saying the union was close to offering concessions on pay and benefits, and claiming she and a fellow colleague were “purged” from the union because they refused to follow Freeman’s agenda for negotiating an agreement with the school district to solve its fiscal crisis.

Freeman characterized Zombro’s comments as “sour grapes,” and said several of the claims she made are “absolutely untrue.”

“It’s very unfortunate that Camille Zombro would do this during such troubling and difficult times,” Freeman said. “To take this divisive measure is very sad, particularly for someone who has supported her for many, many years.” Sounding emotional and tired, Freeman said he would talk to me more tomorrow. But I managed to ask a couple of quick, specific questions.

I asked why SDEA Executive Director Craig Leedham was removed from his office. Leedham was placed on administrative leave in March and Zombro claimed that he had been forced out, with “no just cause or progressive discipline.” Freeman would only say that Zombro’s claims are “absolutely untrue.” He said he would elaborate Wednesday on Leedham’s removal.

I also asked about Zombro’s claim that the union is close to making concessions. He said that was not accurate. Freeman said the union’s representative council, made up of reps from around the district, voted overwhelmingly to open lines of communication with the district. Just because the union’s talking to the district doesn’t mean it’s going to make concessions, he said.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to have a more in-depth conversation with Freeman on Wednesday.

A couple of other follow-ups to the Zombro story:

• The Breakfast Club blog, which was started to put pressure on the SDEA, and which yesterday featured Zombro’s letter, has a new post. This one is from union secretary-elect Michelle Sanchez, who claims that free speech is being stunted at the union.

Sanchez raises concern that the union is effectively seeking to censor “subversive” groups within it by changing its bylaws.

She writes:

I honestly can’t believe what is happening to our union or that our leadership is spending time, energy, and money on this when we have more pressing issues to deal with like 1,700 laid off members! I assume that these bylaw changes are in response to Camille’s email, and the efforts of myself and a group of other SDEA members to found the Breakfast Club Action Group… A group we founded only after being told repeatedly at the membership meetings to go organize ourselves to fight against layoffs and keep our contract closed.

We are hardly “subversive,” as we have a public website, and have been explicitly organizing to pressure the School Board to recall layoffs while keeping their hands off of our contract. How can we be “subversive” if we agree with SDEA’s message of “No Concessions! No Layoffs!”?

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