By Gay Adelmann
With the recent bullying and threats of retaliation against JCPS teachers who stood up for their students and their profession, and the distractions caused by leaders attacking those who are standing up for teachers, instead of pushing back on the bullies, it might be easy to overlook important upcoming opportunities to reshape the leadership within our district’s oldest and most prominent parent/teacher advocacy organization.
The 15th District PTA will hold elections for executive officers for the 2019-2021 term prior to the annual Awards Banquet, which is set for May 7 at the Louisville Central Community Center, Inc. at 1300 West Muhammad Ali Boulevard.
As a parent and a 20-year volunteer for PTAs in 7 different school systems, I envision a PTA that advocates for all students, especially those who may not have the same opportunities my children have had. That is why I’m concerned about an apparent preemptive move to prevent candidates who “rock the boat” from being eligible to serve on our PTAs district-wide board. A meeting to vote on several proposed bylaws changes will take place this coming Monday.
The proposed bylaw in question reads: “If a board member has been removed from the 15th District PTA Board of Directors for cause, theft, malfeasance, or for not fulfilling their duties, they shall not be eligible to hold a position on the 15th District PTA Board of Directors. Appeal Process – If removed from office, after a minimum of two years, an appeal may be made. An individual may be reinstated by a majority vote of the 15th District PTA Executive Board.”
I am one of those volunteers who was removed from my position on the 15th District PTA executive board (where I served faithfully for 3 years), for advocating for parents as an officer with Dear JCPS, and not remaining “obedient” to PTA. Following a rally spearheaded by Dear JCPS in February of 2017 encouraging Dr. Hargens to step down as Superintendent, the 15th District PTA Exec Board took steps to remove me out of fear they experience retribution from the district and could lose access to JCPS schools and the clothing closet. Despite this action having nothing to do with my involvement in PTA, and having received widespread support from the majority of our elected school board members and community, 15th District PTA leadership chose to side with the bully administration instead of its parent and teacher members.
Unfortunately, numerous other volunteers have also been removed from the PTA boards at the district and local level for standing up against a corrupt administration. Tonight’s bylaws change could prevent these or other outspoken advocates from serving on the 15th District PTA board in the future, by a status-quo-seeking establishment that refuses to stand up to bullies who attack its members. Sound familiar?
While our ALEC-backed, Koch-funded legislators were performing CPR on dead bills, harassing female staff members and raiding pensions, and our DeVos-endorsed governor and his handpicked Board of Education and Commissioner were spewing lies about special sessions, lobbing jabs from the ALEC Playbook, and issuing unlawful subpoenas, KEA and JCTA leadership, joined by officials from AFSCME, Teamsters and SEIU, aggressively pushed back on their own members and their allies instead of fighting attacks from bullies and privatizers.
Smacking of voter suppression and more cliquishness, anyone wishing to cast their vote on these proposed PTA bylaws changes must have been appointed as a delegate by their local PTA president, and names must have been submitted to the 15th District PTA president, by April 19.
It’s not too late, however, to sign up to vote as a delegate in the election on May 7. Delegates will determine the officers who will fill 8 of the district PTAs 9-member executive board, (The role of president will be filled by Eddie Squires, as determined by an executive board vote in February, following the death of president-elect Adam Kesler.)
In addition to an 8-member slate nominated by the existing executive PTA board, additional “rank-and-file” PTA members are expected to be “nominated to run from the floor,” challenging some of the candidates on the establishment’s slate.
Vice President 2 – Jamique Washington
Vice President 3 – Amanda Rhye
Vice President 4 – LaTasha Harrison
Vice President 5 – Sharika Anderson-Brown
Secretary – April Johnson (Zimmerman)
Removing a volunteer for “cause” — a subjective term that has not been clearly defined — runs the risk of being skewed by one’s perceptions and biases, such as race or methodology. “Cause” can mean lacking loyalty and obedience to officers and bully district leaders (instead of PTA members and students), as was the case in my situation. It’s hypocritical to pretend the removal process is applied evenly, when instances of fraud, malfeasance (including election rigging, theft and criminal convictions), were not acted upon, even after being brought to leadership’s attention. And it’s naive to think an appeals process that puts the defendant back in front of the same clique that removed them in the first place would be without bias.
Fortunately, there is a grassroots movement afoot nationwide, where “rank-and-file” members are organizing and taking back their organizations. I encourage everyone to get involved in the upcoming PTA elections. Come to the bylaws vote Monday night, participate in the discussion, and ensure transparency and accountability. Also, contact your PTA President about becoming a voting delegate for the May 7 officer election.
Consider the advocacy work of each of the nominees who are running from the floor. Be intentional about voting for a PTA Executive Board that looks and thinks more like the district population it serves. In this vindictive political climate, we need to elect leaders who know how and when to rock the boat on behalf of their members, not protect a bully administration and status quo.
The Louisville Urban League will be providing transportation to these events. To RSVP please contact Carla Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have also filed to run for president-elect from the floor. Not because I wanted to serve, but because I truly believe in PTA, and I want to see 15th District PTA advocate for its members and students in ALL schools they serve. (Of all of the candidates who responded to Dear JCPS’ invitations for nominations to run from the floor, I was the only one who met the minimum service requirements for president-elect.) After tonight’s bylaws vote, I may no longer be eligible to run on May 7. Repeated requests for clarification on the grounds for my removal and whether there will be time to appeal, have gone unanswered. I have a problem with that.
Think what you want about me. I don’t really care. I’m an unpaid stakeholder and advocate in this community, and yet, I’m constantly being attacked by people in positions of power who should be advocating for their members. For what? Advocating for their members! You figure that one out.
Some want to imply I’m only saying something now, out of retaliation for those who have attacked me. I suppose I could have been blasting out every wrong that I’ve witnessed all along, but I usually give the perpetrator numerous opportunities to recognize the error and change course. Until recently, I’ve avoided calling out their leaders out of respect for the institutions I believe in. Clearly, that was a mistake.
However, if you insist on believing them over me, simply because I’m not the one on the attack, at least reach out and give me an opportunity to respond to the accusations (which I’m usually not privy to), as I’ve tried to do for them. Chances are I can provide clarity, and probably even some form of evidence to dispute the misinformation, if asked.
This in’t about me. I know of at least two other officers who were removed from the PTA board over sketchy allegations that felt more like personality clashes than “cause.” This is about making sure they — and people who stand up against the administration when appropriate — may continue to be eligible to serve. This is about the democratic process. This is about the kids.
If you, too, want a PTA that advocates for ALL students in JCPS, I hope to see you and other unapologetic allies tonight at CB Young at 5:45 PM.
Gay Adelmann is a public school graduate, mother of two recent public school graduates, and co-founder of Dear JCPS and Save Our Schools Kentucky.