Members of the Newark Teachers Union (NTU) have until 5 pm Friday to vote for a new president and executive board. The new president will replace Joe Del Grosso who headed the union for 20 years and declined to run for re-election. It is an historic election, both because of the change at the top but also because it comes at a time when the Newark schools are in crisis 20 years after the state took over–with still unfulfilled promises to improve student performance, fiscal management, and facilities for children, parents, and employees.
Clearly, whoever is running the union will have to decide how much longer the NTU can or will tolerate the state administration’s attacks on members, indifference to the needs of the children, the plans for wholesale privatization, fiscal mismanagement, and the callous disregard of the opinions of the Newark community.
The slates in the election are: United for Change (John Abeigon, president; Michael Iovino, secretary-treasurer); NTyoU (Michael Dixon, president; Cheryl Skeete, secretary-treasurer); NEW Vision (Branden Rippey, president; Cynthia Wade, secretary-treasurer).
Ballots will be counted on Tuesday, June 23, 2015 at 10:30AM under the supervision of the American Aribtration Association (AAA) and Optimum Solutions Corp. in Lynbrook, NY.
Because I am not a union member nor a school employee and because the decisions the leadership and members must make will not affect me personally, I do not believe I should endorse any slate. I do believe and hope, however, that the union will aggressively pursue justice for its members and the residents of the city of Newark and their children.
While it is true–as readers often remind me–that strikes by teachers and other public employees are illegal, the truth is they always have been illegal and they were illegal when Carole Graves led the union out twice in two years. She spent six months in jail for doing it–many union members then also served jail time.
For what it is worth–and many readers may find it worth little or nothing–I believe and have previously stated a combination of a student walkout, a parental boycott, a teachers’ strike and a declaration of a state of emergency by Mayor Ras Baraka will bring an end to state control in Newark–and, possibly, the reign of Gov. Chris Christie. Again, that is easy for me to say, a problem for all writers who have no personal, direct and immediate stake in the struggle.
I have asked all three slates to provide statements for publication here.
I would like to take this time to THANK everyone that has cast their ballots for the NTyoU… Slate! I would also like to also THANK those undecided voters and voters that normally don’t participate in the internal NTU elections because the feeling is that nothing will change. I am thanking you for taking the time to read one of our 17,000 flyers that were distributed throughout the city as well as the mailer that has donned your doorstep by now. Hopefully these articles have persuaded you to become a part of a process that previously you saw as non essential. Your ballots can still be cast today, they must be in the mailbox for the 5 pm postmark!
I would also like to take the time to THANK my team, the NTyoU… Slate! Thank You for trusting and believing in MY VISION for the NTU and being loyal and dedicated soldiers/soldierettes throughout this process! THANK YOU for giving of your time to be a part of and affect the much needed change at the NTU. THANK YOU for breaking bread with me at my home. THANK YOU for making your family and friends a part of our ROOFTOP FUNDRAISER. THANK YOU for letting me into your lives. No matter the outcome, their has truly been lifelong relationships forged that I look forward to strengthening!
The NTyoU… Slate is by far the BEST SLATE to support our union and move it forward into the future. The votes have been cast and we shall see on Tuesday, June 23, 2015 @ 10:30 am which team/members will pull the masts and sail the NTU into the sunset.
Regardless of the outcome, I am proud to have run a clean race that was guided by TRUTH with my AWESOME TEAM!
Thy will be done…
Michael F. Dixon
My name is Branden Rippey, candidate for NTU President at the head of the NEW Vision slate. I hold a Bachelors in History, a Masters of Arts in Teaching History, and a Masters of Arts in History, all from the Newark and New Brunswick campuses of Rutgers. I have taught for seventeen years at Science High School and now Science Park High School. I have served as NTU Building Representative for eight years, sit on my school SLC, and have earned special recognition as Governor’s Teacher of the Year in 2007, and NJ PTA Award for Teaching Excellence this spring of 2015.
I have been active in electoral and grassroots politics for decades, notably with the Green Party in the early 2000s, more recently with the People’s Organization for Progress.
The purpose of NEW Caucus (which supports the NEW Vision slate) – from its initial formation as the United for Change slate, which ran for NTU office in 2011, through its founding in the winter of 2012 up until today, June 2015 – has been to rebuild, reenergize, and reorient the Newark Teachers Union to take on the daunting challenges we face. It was clear in the spring of 2011, Governor Christie’s first months in office, that the NTU leadership (at that time Joe Del Grosso, Pietro Petino, and supported by John Abeigon) had no response, either rhetorical or real, to the attacks on our profession, our schools, and our students. When publicly asked what their plan was, they responded, “It is not our job to tell NPS what they are doing wrong. We let it happen and then litigate it.” The NTU had reached a low point, with little to no member activity, little or no communication between leadership and membership, and a complete inability to organize more than a handful of members under even the most dire of circumstances.
As building rep from Science Park High School, I had for nearly four years attempted to work with and be heard by President DelGrosso and then Executive Director Pietro Petino. After having my outreach and suggestions to them ignored for most of that time, and after the election of Governor Christie, it became clear to myself and other concerned NTU members – notably Jose Velazquez of University High School – that something had to be done. This handful of members formed what would soon become the original United for Change electoral slate and, in the winter of 2012, formed the Newark Education Workers (NEW) Caucus.
Since then NEW Caucus has fought to defend education workers in Newark and beyond, fought to defend public education in Newark and beyond, and fought to defend our students in Newark and beyond. We have travelled to New York, Philadelphia and Chicago (twice) to learn, organize, and act in defense of our professions and schools. We have done it during our lunch periods, after school, on weekends, during vacations, and during our summers. We have done it all for free, with no salary, no stipends, no rewards, no bonuses, spending thousands of dollars of our own money to study and learn how best to fight back.
We want nothing less than good public schools for all children, dignified work conditions and autonomy for education workers, and fair pay and benefits for those education workers. We believe that the only way toward these outcomes is an organized, powerful Newark Teachers Union and an organized and powerful union movement. That is why we have worked so hard for nearly four years – to reorient, rebuild, and reenergize our union and make it an active part of a growing progressive union movement nationwide.
UNITED FOR CHANGE
Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a fan of self praise. They also know that for over 20 years this teacher has worked my way through the ranks of the NTU as a volunteer, lobbyist, bilingual staff rep and currently as Director of Organization. I may not have always told members what they wanted to hear, but I have always told them the truth.
Enough about me. Here is the United For Change (UFC) Mission Statement. UFC is a balanced slate running for leadership in the NTU election. It is comprised of a talented mix of Veterans and Progressives with diverse and varied experiences. The slate is led by candidate for president, lifelong Newarker, John M. Abeigon, current Director of Organization and one of the hardest working defenders of teachers and students in the State of NJ. John’s running mate for the office of Secretary Treasurer is the progressive, Michael Iovino, current teacher, co-founder of NEW Caucus.
Seeming opposites have United to develop a plan of action that will take the NTU boldly and defiantly forward amidst the attacks we face.
UFC has developed a plan to breathe new life into and help PRESERVE OUR UNION, giving it the strength and heart it will need to stand strong for many years to come.
A FIGHTER AT THE FRONT: It is time to heed the calls to action, to continue to fight back, and to give the members a leader with a proven record of success against this administration.
PUT THE NEWARK IN THE NTU: It is time to maximize the relations that NTU has built with Newark and the greater community and continue to coordinate with unions, community leaders, government officials and all stakeholders to stand UFC against the destruction of public education in our city.
KEEP THE SUPPORT SOLID: Continue to provide members with EXPERIENCED service, and support answering phones and emails at the NTU. No on the job training will be needed when UFC is working on behalf of its members to continue to support them in their struggles.
ORGANIZE: UFC will organize the NTU offices into a modern union designed to address the needs of its members rapidly. We will organize the district by creating a structured system that will mirror NPS’s regions and provide increased and ongoing direct support to Building Reps via Executive Board members.
When UFC casts open the doors of the NTU we intend to implement a plan that will invigorate NTU employees and members and encourage greater participation than ever before.
The plan reflects three critical areas
- UNIONISM: Strong Solid Classic Unionism. Members need trained leadership to help them through this daunting year. Increased numbers of tenure charges, Donaldson hearings, grievances and more MUST be handled by TRUSTED leadership. Abeigon’s proven track record of success and 24/7 availability speaks for itself. .
- ACADEMIC SUPPORT: UFC pledges to continue to create workshops and support for members to assist them in performance, lesson design, and much more. We must continue to assert ourselves and be at the forefront in pedagogical assistance to our members.
UNITY BUILDING: UFC will demonstrate the value of a strong Union. Leaders AND members will build a strong, authentic connection creating a desire to participate and become more active. Together we will connect with the City in which we serve. We will continue to provide union history, teacher training and union organizing workshops UNITE US ALL with the tools necessary to become knowledgeable, active and powerful forces UNITED FOR CHANGE.