Tuesday, October 23, 2012

April 26, 2010 Letter of Resignation from the PTA

Date:   April 26, 2010

To:      Lisa Scharmann- CUCPTSA President
            Kim Anderson- CUCPTSA Legislative Co- Chair
            Lori Abbott- CUCPTSA Legislative Co- Chair
            Julia Walsh - CUCPTSA Legislative Co- Chair

CC:    The Las Palmas PTA Executive Board
            Julie Hatchel (Chief Communications Officer for CUSD)
            Interim Superintendent Dr. Roberta Mahler
            Friends and Families of CUSD
            All Media Contacts

Re:      CUCPTSA position on PTA leader neutrality during contract disputes does not comply with the National PTA, California State PTA and the CUCPTSA Not for Profit Charter, By-Laws, Mission Statements or Advocacy Platforms. As a result, parents of CUSD have been severely handicapped in their ability to obtain information about contract issues that reflect the stated position of the PTA which is to advocate for “What is in the best interest of children”.


The PTA (Parent Teacher Association) is the largest volunteer child advocacy association in the nation. The National PTA’s stated mission is to be:
                          A powerful voice for all children,
                          A relevant resource for families and communities, and
                       A strong advocate for the education and well- being of every child.
As an “Advocacy Organization”, it is the PTA’s responsibility, to influence public policy and to ensure that it’s advocacy efforts reflect what is in the “best interest of children”.
The National PTA’s full mission statement can be found on the National PTA web site at the following link: http://www.pta.org/1162.asp
The California State PTA is a branch of the National PTA, serving as a connecting link between the national organization and its membership within the state of California. The California State PTA mission statement is the same as the National PTA, and can be found on the California State PTA web site at the following link: http://www.pta.org/1162.asp
The Capistrano Unified Council of PTSAs (CUCPTSA) is a branch of the California State PTA and is composed of PTA leaders from 52 CUSD schools. The stated mission of the CUPTSA is to support and speak on behalf of all children and youth in the schools, in the community and before governmental bodies and other organizations that make decisions affecting children; to assist parents in developing the skills they need to raise and protect their children; and to encourage parent and public involvement in the public schools of this nation.
The CUCPTSA mission statement can be found at the following link: http://www.cucptsa.com/
The Power of the PTA comes from Parents who trust the PTA Organization to advocate from the position of: “WHAT IS IN THE BEST INTEREST OF CHILDREN”.
While the PTA is not suppose to choose sides in a dispute over contract issues between the District and its Employees, the PTA has a duty and a responsibility to study contract issues, and to help influence contract negotiations so that the final contract will not be entered into without regard for the PTA perspective of: “WHAT IS IN THE BEST INTEREST OF CHILDREN”.
The California State PTA Tool Kit is the authoritative guide for how PTA units should conduct PTA business in order to comply with the PTA Charter, By-Laws, and Mission Statements. The Tool Kit also provides official PTA positions on issues that affect the quality of education for our children such as the issue of class size reduction.  
Throughout this entire collective bargaining process, PTA leaders have been under extreme pressure from the PTA Board to “remain neutral” in the dispute between the District and its Employees citing the California State PTA Tool Kit section 4.5.54 on page 146.  The Tool Kit can be found at the following link: http://www.capta.org/sections/resources/toolkit.cfm

The California State PTA Tool Kit is very clear and specific about the role of the PTA in Public involvement in School Governance and must be read in it’s entirety to understand the PTA’s responsibility during the collective bargaining process Section 4.5.53 Public Involvement in School Governance on page 145 of the PTA Tool Kit through page 154 including the Position Statements which follow.
Section 4.5.54 of the California State PTA Tool Kit (Page 151) states:

… PTA involvement in the collective bargaining process should be through a Public Notice Sunshine Committee. This approach will allow the PTA organization to maintain its neutral position regarding any dispute(s) that may arise, and will preclude offending any one segment of PTA membership.

A Public Notice Sunshine Committee was not set up. As a result, there has not been a voice throughout the collective bargaining process that represents the voice of “what is in the best interest of children”. As a result, parents have not had access to objective factual information that studies the contract issues from the perspective of “what is in the best interest of children”.  The tool kit further states:

“The community has a high stake in its public education system and, therefore, should be equally concerned about the negotiations which result in the final contract. While negotiations are usually conducted in private meetings between representatives of the school district and the employee group, the public must study the issues, evaluate their impact on the educational system, and know how the collective bargaining process works and how the public can fit into the process… 
When local school boards and employee groups meet at the negotiating table, the decisions made are of great importance to the quality of education provided for students. Parents and concerned community members have realized that negotiations by school employee groups such as those representing teachers, school office personnel, aides, custodians and cafeteria personnel greatly influence events in the classroom and have an impact on the overall cost of education.

It is essential that public input into this process be based on knowledge of the operations of the local school district. It is only in this way the public can become a valid part of the process and present viewpoints pertinent to the current contract or proposals,

PTA Tool Kit 4.5.54f Public Involvement in Collective Bargaining Process

According to Education Employment Relations Act (EERA), any person or representative group may comment on the issues to be negotiated or on the contract itself at any meeting of the board of education. The PTA does not advocate the inclusion or exclusion of certain clauses in the contract. PTA members should ask, however, that each clause be analyzed to determine "WHAT EFFECT THIS WILL HAVE ON ALL CHILDREN." When feasible, PTA involvement in the collective bargaining process should be through a Public Notice Sunshine Committee. This approach will allow the PTA organization to maintain its neutral position regarding any dispute(s) that may arise, and will preclude offending any one segment of PTA membership.


The California State PTA strongly urges all unit, council and district PTAs to closely monitor their respective school boards’ compliance with the Public Notice section of the Employer-Employee Relations Act. Unless a PTA does so, it will jeopardize its ability to make meaningful, timely comments about the initial and subsequent proposals under negotiation

Contract Study Committee

PTA has a responsibility to become knowledgeable and to inform the public about proposed contracts. To fulfill this responsibility, the following steps should be taken:

1. Form a PTA study committee including representation from all PTA units within the school district. School district employees should not serve on this study committee because they have the opportunity to express their views through their respective bargaining units.

Please Note: Where a council or district PTA relates directly to a school district, the said council or district PTA should appoint the study committee. Where a group of units or councils relates to a school district, the units or councils should appoint members to serve on a study committee.

2. The PTA criterion for any study, including collective bargaining issues, must be, “WHAT WILL BE THE EFFECT ON ALL CHILDREN?”

3. Encourage other school-based and community organizations to make their own studies of the proposed contract(s).

4. Study the current contract, the school district budget, initial contract proposals and subsequent proposals from the school board and employees’ organization.

a. Adequate lead time is essential for any group beginning to study collective bargaining proposals since several key documents should be reviewed first. The committee must react to contract issues from a position of knowledge about the current fiscal condition of the school district, and how the current agreement affects the education of students.

b. Documents to be studied:

(1) THE BUDGET — A thorough briefing on the current year’s budget is essential to understand a school district’s financial condition and how funds are being allocated. This information should be presented by school district financial staff members in a clearly understandable format. (See Resource List, EdSource.)

(2) THE CURRENT CONTRACT — Almost all school districts have an existing contract with each employee bargaining unit. While it may seem to be a complex task, it is important that time be allowed for the committee to become familiar with and knowledgeable about the current contract language. Particular attention should be paid to the interests of parents and students in the current contract.

(3) INITIAL CONTRACT PROPOSALS — When each bargaining unit’s new contract is to be negotiated, the initial proposals should be obtained from the employee group and the school district. Representatives from management and the employee groups should be invited to give their interpretations of the proposals. The language should be clear in its intent and the committee
The school board must allow time for the community to study and then comment on the board’s initial proposals before adopting them as the board’s negotiating position. The PTA should find out what
the school board’s time frame is for this process.

(4) SUBSEQUENT PROPOSALS — The study committee should continue to monitor the negotiating process for the introduction of new subjects arising after the presentation of initial proposals. These subsequent proposals must be made public within 24 hours after their introduction.

The PTA Leadership should have formed a Public Notice Sunshine Committee to study contract issues and provide parents with objective information about how specific provisions will affect the quality of Education of their children at CUSD.  Parents need the PTA to be the one voice of truth – the voice that puts the best interest of children over everything else. 
Throughout the entire Fact Finding Process, there has been a “culture” on the part of the CUCPTSA to emphasize the need for PTA Leaders to “remain neutral.  The PTA did so without providing parents with any place to go for non-biased third party information about contract issues. The call to remain neutral, without the benefit of a Public Notice Sunshine Committee to present unbiased information to parents, means that parents are not making informed decisions about negotiations, and may actually be advocating against their stated interests in preserving programs like Class Size Reduction. 

In addition to failing to follow PTA guidelines throughout the collective bargaining process, the CUCPTSA also failed to stand up and advocate for stated PTA advocacy positions on issues such as class size reduction.
The PTA at all levels (National- State- Local) is explicit on its position to “advocate” for smaller class sizes. The CUCPTSA had an obligation not to be silent or “neutral” on the Fact Finders Recommendation to add two children to each class per grade as a means of balancing the districts budget. 

On April 29th, 2005, the California State PTA passed a resolution entitled: “Class Size Reduction Flexibility” directing the California State PTA to: “support a student:teacher workload that does not exceed 25 students per teacher. The resolution directed the California State PTA and its units, councils and districts to urge local school districts to work toward reducing class sizes to no more than 25 students per teacher in grades 4- 12 in academic classes. The full resolution can be found on the California State PTA web site at the following link: http://www.capta.org/sections/advocacy/downloads/A-CSRFlexibilityFINAL.pdf
The CUCPTSA Legislative Agenda for 2009-2010 states:
1.  Advocate for educational programs that will contribute to the long-term success of all students in CUSD
            Advocate for the continued priority of smaller class sizes in grades K-12.
2.   Advocate for effective communication between parents, district administrators and the CUSD Board of Trustees
            Encourage opportunities for parent participation in policy development discussions that affect all students.
The full agenda can be found on the CUCPTSA web site at the following link: http://www.cucptsa.com/index.asp?scid=18
When the Fact Finding recommendations were made public, the CUCPTSA had an obligation to advocate against the Fact Finders recommendation of increasing class size in all grades by two students. They did not.
The PTA has a legal, moral and ethical obligation to up-hold its founding principals. The PTA’s failure to do so has resulted in offending many of the PTA leaders in the District and has resulted in substantial harm to the families in CUSD who have always looked to the PTA to be a voice for the children.
As a result of the actions stated above, I am no longer going to be a member of the PTA. I have resigned from all of my positions on the Las Palmas PTA Executive Board and the CUCPTSA Legislation Team. I will begin to look for other ways to remain a strong advocate for all children in CUSD.
Dawn Urbanek
CUSD Parent

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