According to several confirmed sources who attended a May 25th school wide meeting at Cardozo Education Campus, when pressed for answers Washington Teachers’ Union President Liz Davis admitted that she turned down a 4 percent (4%) offer that was on the table during last year’s teacher contract negotiations.
An impatient group of over 40 Cardozo teachers were present last Wednesday who had just attended an afternoon monthly faculty meeting and were later joined by WTU President Davis. Davis declared during the meeting that the 1% raise that Chancellor Kaya Henderson offered was ‘unacceptable.’ Davis revealed at the meeting that late in 2013, there was a four percent offer on the table that she turned down because the chancellor was just beginning to press her initiative on the extended school year.
“Four percent is better than no percent,” said Grace Cooke-Thomas, a special education teacher at Cardozo Education Campus as she expressed her exasperation about the fact that the Chancellor was able to push through the extended school year with nearly a dozen schools, mainly east of the river in wards 7 and 8.
Davis indicated that she didn’t bring the four percent offer to anyone’s attention because she didn’t think it was worth discussing because the WTU didn’t accept it in light of the extended school year issues being discussed across the board rather than at selected low performing schools.
During the meeting, Cardozo teachers demanded to know, “Where was the transparency? Why were only certain schools being targeted for rallies to bring attention to the 1% offer? And most important, why wasn’t Davis playing a more effective role as a union leader instead of expecting teachers to take to the streets in support of her failed effort to get a contract?’
The Cardozo teachers’ group just got tired of President Davis beating around the bush about contract negotiations and they asked her directly to disclose what’s actually in the contract that she claims she is negotiating.
“I’m a bit frustrated and I’ve seen teachers lose their jobs. I hear a lot of talk but nothing is being done. Teachers don’t want to march and hold rallies because they are being bullied by principals and are afraid of reprisal”, said Ms. Cooke-Thomas.
When Davis suggested that a survey be conducted, the Cardozo staff lost their patience and the group asked to see a draft of the contract that Davis claims she is working on. They demanded to know exactly what was put on the table. Davis declined to provide this information, citing confidentiality
Jody Coates, a special education teacher at Cardozo EC recalled, “I sat with Davis as a member of the WTU Executive Board and I don’t remember Davis ever saying anything about the 4% offer.”
During the meeting, it was reported that majority of teachers became frustrated and irate that the 4% offer was never brought to their attention. Davis was described as defensive and an attempt to rescue her from the heat by a representative of the American Federation of Teachers’ staffer, Allison Crawford was reportedly unsuccessful.
At one point in the meeting, President Davis asked one participant to “shut up” and accused her of being rude. That was followed by a barrage of complaints as teachers demanded to know what action was being taken to get a contract and that Davis should take charge. “I’ve contacted you on a number of occasions and it took you over a month to get back to me,” said Ms. Ball. “You want us to be out front in the rally, but we are asking you to take charge,” said Ms. Cooke-Thomas.
When a key member of the WTU teacher contract negotiations team and Davis 2016 slate candidate for Member at Large, Signe Nelson, also a teacher at Whittier Education Campus was asked to get her read on what had historically been on the negotiating table before the contract negotiations team were summarily dismissed and Davis took charge of all negotiations herself, the familiar theme of “blame the Chancellor” rang out.
“Kaya had no intention of negotiating in good faith”, said Ms. Nelson as she went on to deny that Davis ever owned up to the 4% offer. “It’s about changing the narrative that ineffective teachers are the problem. And I’m not confident that will change” concluded Ms. Nelson who seems to represent the defeatist sentiment of the Davis slate that is not optimistic that a contract can get done under any circumstances!
It is not surprising that Chancellor Henderson referred to the state of negotiations, “as the old fashioned way” in her April 21st DCPS budget hearing testimony before DC City Council Education Chair David Grosso.
And the Cardozo teachers’ wondered why Davis was going out of her way on the eve of the WTU elections to rally support, when she couldn’t get a contract done and turned down attractive offers that have been on the table since 2013!
In addition, Cardozo teachers’ felt that Davis’ repeated requests to rally and protest at area schools was falling on deaf ears and that she had not been honest about the Wilson and downtown rally at Thomson elementary school, which were teacher led and mainly by her fellow slate members and supporters in an attempt to salvage her flagging prospects for re-election as her three year term is quickly coming to an end with no contract in sight.
Davis included the following argument in a February 2016 WTU Newsletter: “The mediator demanded that both DCPS and the WTU negotiations teams complete proposals for all contract articles by the close of business on February 24th.
Now that all proposals have been completed, in an effort to speed up negotiations, we agreed to meet with DCPS without the teachers after the chancellor said providing release time for the teachers on our team was a deterrent to meeting five days a week.
As negotiations became testy and the mediator could not bring the sides together, Davis dismissed the teacher members of the negotiating team and went solo using the excuse that the Chancellor wouldn’t allow teachers special leave to participate in a 5-day a week negotiation meetings which were unrealistic and a sign of how desperate the Davis contract negotiating position was at that time.
Davis went on to claim in that same February newsletter that, “DCPS’s priorities for the new contract include an extended school year.”
“These decisions, and other contract language proposed by DCPS, would stifle your voice and participation in local school decision-making. Our contract team is determined not to let that happen”.
“It’s not about taking sides at this point, it’s about what’s right. I just don’t see Davis’ vision and I don’t believe after three years of seeing her operate as WTU President that she has the knowledge of union logistics. She talks a good game and she’s good on the soapbox, but at last week’s meeting it was kicked out from under her! We simply want a contract”, said WTU Executive Board member Jody Coates.