Gearing up for an epic year

Above, UTLA Officers from left to right, Alex Orozco, Treasuer; Cecily Myart-Cruz, NEA/UTLA Vice President; Arlene Inouye, Secretary; Alex Caputo-Pearl, President; Daniel Barnhart, Secondary Vice President; Gloria Martinez, Elementary Vice President; and Juan Ramirez, AFT/UTLA Vice President.

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Summer is an essential time for relaxing and recharging — but the reality is that many UTLA members find ways to keep working. From teaching summer school to retooling lesson plans or taking learning vacations at historic sites, the whole “summers off” thing may be an outdated concept.

If you’re a UTLA Board member, you’ve spent a good chunk of your break working with UTLA staff on our aggressive organizing plan to win a new contract and enforce the current one. 

If you’re a UTLA site leader, you’ve likely cleared the last weekend in July to attend the UTLA Leadership Conference, where you’ll be getting practical support for organizing for our contract campaign and defending members’ rights on uniform staffing procedures, class sizes, and other issues.

Our bargaining team also has been hard at work, meeting with LAUSD officials for multiple negotiation sessions and putting additional proposals from our Schools LA Students Deserve campaign on the table (read more on page 5 of the United Teacher).

Community organizations have been key partners in our strategic planning over the summer. We’ve had joint sessions on “bargaining for the common good” to look at how community concerns can be linked with our contract demands. Many more of these meetings will be held in the coming months. At the School Board, the voices of parents, educators, and students, organized by Reclaim Our Schools L.A., were the deciding factor in the unanimous passage in June of a resolution supporting Community Schools (see page 5). Expanding and strengthening our network of community/labor partners — locally, statewide, and nationally — is critical to building the power we need to succeed. 

Part of my summer has been spent talking with Superintendent Michelle King and LAUSD School Board members. This is not the School Board lineup we wanted, but it is the board we have, and it is the board that will be voting on our contract and health benefits.

During the break, the new UTLA Board of Directors came on board, and two great people from our 2014-17 team, Betty Forrester and Colleen Schwab, left office. Betty was an unstoppable force at the bargaining table, helping negotiate our 10% pay raise in 2015 and protecting our health benefits from cuts year after year. Colleen was unstoppable in resolving school-site issues, notably holding LAUSD’s feet to the fire during the MiSiS crisis and winning victories for teachers who had been unjustly pulled from their classrooms. Theirs will be tough shoes to fill, but we have a dynamic new team on board, and both Betty and Colleen are staying active in UTLA. You can read more about the new lineup of officers on this spread and see all the names of the new UTLA Board of Directors on the updated masthead to the left.

Our work over the summer means we will be ready to hit the ground running when school begins. Our driving priorities: 

• A good contract agreement that makes our schools great places to work and learn by achieving pay increases, protecting active and retiree health benefits, improving class sizes and staffing, investing in Community Schools, improving school climate and student discipline, and enhancing professional rights, including academic freedom relative to standardized tests and mandates.
• Fighting for more funding from the state for public education. 

• Pushing back against privatization and bringing accountability to the unregulated charter school market. 

• Resisting the anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-Muslim, anti-LGBTQ, anti-worker, anti-public education policies coming from D.C. that target our communities, our students, and our union. 
We will not be able to win — at the bargaining table, at school sites, in Sacramento, and beyond — without escalating collective action. With our contract having expired in June and our health benefits expiring in December, we will bargain as hard as we can to reach an agreement and avoid a strike, but we must be ready and organized for all possibilities.

We have an intense year ahead of us. No doubt about it. But we have each other to lean on, to take inspiration and energy from, as we take on this incredibly important work. Have a great rest of the summer.

 

Meet the new officer team...

 

Cecily Myart-Cruz

UTLA/NEA Vice President

Cecily Myart-Cruz has taught for 22 years, at both elementary and middle school levels. As a UTLA Area leader, she worked with educators, parents, and the community to oust 24 “lemon” principals and collaborated with schools to boycott periodic assessments to protest excessive testing. During the RIF layoff crisis, she led “Red Hot Monday” actions, at which UTLA members “pink-slipped” LAUSD bureaucrats. As the UTLA/NEA Vice President, she has engaged members in affiliate activities and worked with community partners to bring resources to schools, like Honey Shine Inc., a mentoring and self-esteem program for young girls of color. She has helped shape racial justice within the work of the union through critical dialogue and forums, with student voices front and center. 

Cecily’s message to members: “We have intense work ahead of us. Privatization schemes, union-busting efforts, threats to our profession, and attacks on people for race, religion, gender, and immigration status are on the rise. Together we as educators can make a difference in these fights. As affiliate president, my goals over the next three years include creating leadership opportunities for ethnic minorities, broadening the community/partner work of our affiliates, and building strength for UTLA through state and national relationships. There is much work to be done, so let’s get to it!”

 

Juan Ramirez

UTLA/AFT Vice President

Juan Ramirez has 20 years’ teaching experience in kindergarten and grades second through fourth. He also taught adult education for nine years. As UTLA Elementary Vice President, he worked with teachers, parents, and community members to counter Parent Revolution as well as standing up for teachers harassed by administrators and the district. He also served as vice president for the CFT’s Early Childhood/K-12 committee, which advocates for educators and students at the state level. As part of his commitment to working with the community, he has hosted a Spanish radio show and written for a Spanish-language newspaper.

Juan’s message to members: “My priority in the coming years is to work in sync with our state and national affiliates to support the work we are doing to push back on the privatizers who would dismantle public education. Whatever happens in LA will affect the rest of the nation. Every school should feel supported and connected to UTLA, and I will continue working toward that end, as well as advocating for authentic relationships with our parents and communities. I look forward to working with a dedicated group of officers who will work hard to make sure that these goals are accomplished.”

 

Daniel Barnhart

UTLA Secondary Vice President

Along with National Board certification in science, Daniel Barnhart has a math credential to go with his 13 years in the classroom. He has served as UTLA chapter chair, UTLA/PACE vice chair, North Area chair for six years, and UTLA Secretary for the past three years. At the school site, he has served as a lead teacher, peer mentoring sponsor, Local School Leadership Council chair, and technology coordinator. Barnhart is also a trainer for the AFT’s Education Research & Dissemination (ER&D) program.

Daniel’s message to members: “Thank you for giving the new officers the most important gift a leadership team can have: the trust and aspirations of our members so that we can help continue the revival of our union and of public education in a city where powerful interests have put our profession and the lives of the children we serve under attack. As your Secondary Vice President, I’ll be focused on making connections between members and schools across the city, around issues affecting youth and our diverse membership. As one of your instructional vice presidents, along with Gloria Martinez, we will connect classroom issues to community concerns, pedagogy, and professional rights as well as student and parent dreams, and we will organize our members to ensure our voices are heard, at the school site, at Beaudry, and beyond. I’m excited to continue this work with you.”

 

Gloria Martinez

UTLA Elementary Vice President

Gloria Martinez, a National Board Certified Teacher in Special Needs, has been teaching for 16 years and holds credentials in general and special education. A long-time chapter chair, she has also served on the UTLA Board of Directors for East Area. In 2014, Gloria went to the bargaining table to hammer away at LAUSD’s implementation of MiSiS and its impact on ELL and special needs students and the educators who serve them. She has been a key member of UTLA’s Organizing Team, which planned the escalating actions and the Stand at Grand rally at City Hall in 2015, and she played a key role in the systematic organizing behind the Build the Future, Fund the Fight campaign. 

Gloria’s  message to members: “Thank you for the responsibility you have bestowed on me and this group of officers. Your trust and support matters; it allows us to not only work collectively but push each other as a team. I am grateful to hold this position, which encompasses two of my passions: teaching and community work. The excitement in the UTLA building is undeniable as we plan for a stronger union and make strides to push the labor movement to stand against corporate interests, and I look forward to working with our members to continue the fight against privatization and holding our district accountable to the students and communities we serve.”

 

Alex Orozco

UTLA Treasurer

Alex Orozco has been teaching at Madison Middle School since 2000. In his many years as chapter chair, he organized against co-location and led efforts to increase enrollment and build relationships with parents and the community. Alex was a leader in the “Repairs Not iPads” campaign. As a UTLA Board member, Alex has organized against bad principals, led training for chapter chairs, and organized multiple events. As a member of UTLA’s Financial Sustainability Task Force, he played a key role in the historic Build the Future, Fund the Fight initiative from its inception and assisted in shaping funding priorities, both at his school and on his neighborhood council. As an immigrant child growing up in poverty in the Valley, Alex understands the power of being part of a school community and will bring these foundations, along with proven leadership, to his role as UTLA Treasurer.

Alex’s message to members: “I am very honored and excited to have the opportunity to build on the successes of my predecessor, while preparing us for the battles that await us. I want to make sure that our finances continue to be transparent and reflect the direction of our union in the fight for the Schools LA Students Deserve!”

 

Arlene Inouye

UTLA Secretary

Arlene Inouye is a proud Health and Human Services professional, having served as a Spanish bilingual speech and language specialist for 18 years in the East and North areas. In her two terms as UTLA Treasurer, she was a lead advocate for the Build the Future, Fund the Fight initiative to invest in the union by fixing UTLA’s structural deficit and creating a solid financial foundation for the years to come. 

Arlene’s message to members: “I am humbled and honored to have had the opportunity to be your UTLA Treasurer for the past six years and to begin a new term as your UTLA Secretary and co-chair of the UTLA Bargaining Team. I believe that the fight for public education and workers’ rights is critical for the future of our democracy and is a pressing civil rights issue today. And because of this, I feel the deep privilege and challenge to be fighting with you for the Schools LA Students Deserve and against the Trump/DeVos/California Charter Schools Association privatization agenda. As UTLA Secretary, I will continue the ground-breaking work that Daniel Barnhart began and ensure that our union governance structures run democratically and efficiently. I look forward to connecting with you personally at school sites, UTLA meetings, or electronically. I am continually inspired by your dedication to your students, profession, and the promise of public education for all.”