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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Vergara Case: Emery Unified School District, Right Wing Victorious Against Teachers Unions

Emery Plays a Part in the Infamous 
Vergara Case
News Analysis
A Los Angeles judge ruled against California teachers and in support of a Silicon Valley billionaire today in the much watched Vergara Case, a lawsuit with major Emery Unified School District connections.  It's a case that has pitted school privatizers and anti-union right wing forces against teachers and public school supporters.  Emery Unified sent two strong anti-teacher's union supporters, former school superintendents Tony Smith and Debbra Lindo to argue in support of billionaire plaintiff David Welch (57).  The case will have repercussions far beyond California as the plaintiff vows to take the case nation-wide, a prospect that has drawn cheers from all manner of conservative pundits and right wing think tanks across the land.

Both Emery superintendents supplied the plaintiff with 'letters of declaration', using their Emery credentials to bolster their case that teachers are to blame for the poor state of education in Emeryville and in California.
Silicon Valley Tycoon David Welch
The Republican billionaire used
Emery School Superintendent's
help to argue that teachers unions
should be deep sixed. 

The plaintiff used Emery's superintendent's letters of declaration to argue that only the destruction of the teachers union and tying teacher pay with student test scores can save education, something that needs to be done "for the students".  The idea is that well qualified teachers will flock to school districts that offer no job security and pay poorly although neither Emery superintendent nor anyone representing the plaintiff has shown how this will work.  The Vergara plaintiff argued good teachers aren't interested in due process and instead clamor for their job and pay to be dependent upon the capricious whims of superintendents and other things beyond their control like student poverty and associated dysfunctional home life.

Emery Unified: Anti-Teacher Incubator 
Emery, being such a small school district, has played an over sized role in today's victory against teachers.  The district here has long taken an adversarial position against its teachers, most notably when the School Board resolved to support Superintendent Lindo over the teachers in the infamous Teachers Resolution fight.  Tony Smith and his program of shutting down schools, cutting teacher pay and turning over public schools to private charter corporations while he served as Oakland's superintendent is still revered by the School Board here at Emery.
Emery's role in the anti-teacher/ pro-privatization movement has come to be that of an incubator.  The district here collects those with disdain for teachers and elevates them to superintendent.  After attaining superintendent status, Emery sends them out into the world where they can help right wing causes and inflict damage to teachers statewide.
It's a recipe that has rankled teachers here at Emery.  Emery Teachers Association president Dawn Turner told the Tattler today, "We have the dubious distinction of having provided not one but two former superintendents as expert witnesses on the Vergara case.  They are using students to forward a right wing agenda".  Ms Turner echoed her colleagues vow, "We will fight this" she said.

In a tragicomic irony, the ruling in Los Angeles today comes right on the heels of last week's "Teacher Appreciation Week" here at Emery.


  1. Brian, your facts and attempted spin are baseless. Tony Smith had not been employed in our district for several years when he decided to testify in Vergara. Debra Lindo did not inform the board of her participation in the Vergara litigation, and she did not have Board support or approval for participating in the case in any official district capacity. Her superintendency ended prior to the beginning of the Vergara trial; her deposition was never taken and she never testified in the trial. As such, her declaration was useless hearsay and never used at trial. Thus, Emery Unified played no role in the Vergara trial.

    John Affeldt, Board member

    1. The point is not when Tony Smith or Debbra Lindo filed their letter of declaration in support of the billionaire plaintiff. The point is also not whether the Board voted in affirmation of either letter. Lastly, the point is not how these Emery School Superintendents anti-teacher letters were specifically used by the plaintiff in the trial. The point is Emery Unified School District and its School Board produced two Superintendents that felt compelled to write the letters. The letters gave (and continue to give) support to right wing anti-public school forces, they gave succor and a place of comfort and refuge by this District. We don't know how the letters effected the trial by offering support to the forces of darkness, but we know support was given. Your line of reasoning supposes of two bank robbers firing volleys of shots at bank tellers who refuse to give up the money unless they get shot, only the one who's bullet hit flesh is a bank robber.

      More importantly than offering support to the anti-teacher billionaire, the letters submitted by these two former Emery employees offers a window into the dark soul that is the Emery School Board majority, the Superintendent's employers. I say majority because we have a new School Board member that has not taken part in building this anti-teacher culture that stinks up the place here at Emery. The others are all complicit.
      These letters permit Emeryville residents to see past the phony pro-teacher rhetoric doled out by the Board. We get a glimpse into what this Board values and who this Board elevates to represent those values.
      Your side of the argument is that these two former employees are rogue agents. Besides insulting our intelligence with that, we have to ask what then are we to take from that? Why is it other school districts don't have their superintendents going around half cocked writing letters supporting right wing crazies? Of course there's a reason why other districts aren't experiencing that. It's because those kinds of people aren't hired by those other districts. It's because these two Superintendents do represent Emery values.

  2. Thanks for keeping us informed about the school board's anti teacher antics but I think you should go easier on John Affeldt. He's the only one with the guts to respond to you.

  3. Why is tenure even a thing? Why would one sector of public employees deserve job security where none exists for any other public or private sector? I thought tenure is meant to protect free academic thought and teaching from the whims of a university administration or the financial influence of its donors and/or alumni. Public school teachers do not need protection for their research or curricula.

    And they don’t deserve “protection” from anything else either. The argument that tenure protects seasoned teachers at higher pay grades from being replaced by cheaper, less experienced ones just so a school can save money doesn’t track. Teachers cannot expect a level of job security that nobody else has. In any private company or sector of public employment, there are expensive, experienced employees and newer untrained ones. It is the school's prerogative to maintain the balance it needs to be effective and use its resources wisely. Teachers should be able and willing to take a pay cut rather than be forced out because their wages and benefits begin to outweigh their usefulness.

    I love great teachers. I love teaching. But teachers aren’t special. I do not think they are angels or peaches who have answered a higher calling. Sure I think some have a gift. Yes, I think they are underpaid and overworked. But I also think trauma nurses and ER doctors and public defenders and the men and women who have volunteered for the military are underpaid and overworked too. And yes, I think it’s shameful when a district blows millions of dollars on waste, bad ideas, and administrator salaries rather than spending it on students and teachers. But none of that has any relevance on this issue. There is no reason a school shouldn’t be able remove underperforming teachers. None. If a teacher feels she was let go unfairly, she has her union behind her to appeal. But it’s not right to put job security above the quality of a public education.

  4. Another comment from a caring individual that loves teachers! It seems everybody likes them. You like them so much you want to see them get out of the profession altogether and get into something that actually pays so they can experience what it's like to feel valued by society?

    To take issue: schools CAN remove underperforming teachers within a union. There's a process for that. It's just that the administration here at Emery, and you, and Republicans in general don't want to be bothered with the little matter of due process. It's so much easier to just fire them on the Superintendent's whim.
    Teachers get tenure and those other professions you mentioned don't. That's correct. They get extremely low pay and tenure. So you're going to remove their tenure. Can you name a reason why they're going to then stay in the profession? Think there'll be a downward pressure on quality with the combination of low pay and no security? What do you think? Realize right now, taxpayers get a bargain because they get to pay teachers shit wages. The job security offered allows us to pay them next to nothing. In case your little scheme of removing their security doesn't bring the best and the brightest, are you ready to massively increase their pay? Good luck with that. The taxpayers will love that.
    Why is it anti-teacher phonies always claim that every other profession has to compensate for quality employees but strangely not the teaching profession? Somehow if we pay teachers shit wages and take away their job security the best and the brightest will flock to the profession...unlike say hedge fund managers. With them and everybody else you have to pay them well to get quality.
    So how does this seemingly backwards universe thing of yours work? It's a conundrum. Is there some other force, yet to be described by science at play?

    So go ahead, tell us how this is all going to come together, this little plan of yours. Just in case you find yourself struggling to make a cogent presentation, while we're waiting, excuse us if we just go on, expecting the axiom "good things cost money and shitty things are cheaper" to continue to act as a universal law.

  5. Someone is clearly struggling to make a cogent presentation and it's not mine or Mr. Affeldt's, who by the way is more on your (our) side than you think. Apply a bit of logic to your knee-jerk tree and maybe you'd sound a bit more "cogent". You shouldn't be so quick to push people out of your elite little circle just because they don't share your militant liberal views but maybe ascribe to something more middle-of-the-road. Come out from under your small tent Brian. Not everyone is evil and dark.

    1. Nice job avoiding the point. I guess we'll have to continue to wait for you to tell us all how this plan of yours is going to work.

      Meanwhile, not everyone is evil and dark...that's true. But evil and dark people are evil and dark.
      Oh, and 'elite' refers to people with power or in control. That's not me or "my circle".

  6. Damn, the myth that tenured teachers are hard to fire is pervasive. They are quite easy to fire. The problem lies in that the administrators don't last very long at school districts anymore, and they are either far too lazy to do the necessary work, or not vested in the district enough to bother with it cause they will be moving on soon. I've seen bad teachers removed in a matter of months, as long as the administrator takes the right steps and documents everything. And that is the Principals job.

    1. I have seen teachers with permanent status removed in less than a school year. If administrators did their job this wouldn't be an ongoing problem. We already have enough ed code to address all issues concerning teachers. What we don't have is enough administrators held accountable.

    2. I’d like to make a few clarifying points:
      1. Tony Smith and Debbra Lindo are listed on the site as expert witnesses in the Vergara lawsuit.
      2. It is ironic that we have two former sups who participated in some form or fashion with Welch/Vergara.
      3. Tony Smith moved on ten years ago, so he certainly isn’t affiliated with EUSD and my intention was not to imply any responsibility on the EUSD Board’s part regarding Tony Smith.
      4. When Debbra Lindo’s role in Vergara was brought to the EUSD Board’s attention, action was taken. John Affeldt played an instrumental role in addressing Lindo’s conflict of interest and use of her title (superintendent) to align herself with ideals, not shared by the EUSD Board.
      5. I was quoted as saying “We will fight this” but my full quote was “We will fight this in appellate court." "We" are the intervenors in the case, CTA and CFT.

      Dawn Turner
      President, Emery TA