JCTA officer elections quietly come around every three years. Tomorrow will kick off the next triennial 8-day popularity contest. Their long-standing President, Brent McKim, has a Black female challenger. Incumbent Vice President, Tammy Berlin, seeking her third term, has a Black male challenger. The Treasurer slot is being sought by a vocal critic of McKim’s handling of the pension crisis. Despite promises to the contrary, Brent has remained in power for 20 years, after removing term limits shortly after becoming elected in 2001.
Their entrenched white leadership continues to abuse their power to suppress members’ votes, restrict access to information that impacts members’ financial security and representation, sow discord, and spread confusion and fear in order to prevent non-white stakeholders and their allies from sharing in the decision making that affects their union, their district and their community.
Unfortunately, their latest efforts appear to be working, based on the number of teachers who have told me to stop poking the bear, a tried-and-failed strategy that continues to leave me vulnerable and exposed, while their harmful and dangerous behaviors grow rampant and remain unchecked.
The gaslighting and manipulation in a recent message from JCTA Executive Director DeeAnn Flaherty (a McConnell Scholar) regarding a recent email I sent to candidates is complex, but let me break down a few things I noticed:
Their first implication is that I did not send the email to all candidates, or provide them with equal opportunity to participate.
This assumption is not factual and easily proven as such. I sent the email to more than two dozen candidates in contested downballot races, specifically so that everyone WOULD have the same opportunity to be aware and apply. When my email tracking software showed ZERO opens after some time had passed, I called or messaged a few candidates that I knew to make sure it had not been blocked, as has been done previously. (See image.)
Candidates “K,” “G,” “I” and “S1” located and opened their emails after I notified them to look for it. Most of them told me it was buried in some kind of spam folder. After that outreach, I could finally see some “opens” but other than the initial three or four that I contacted, the reporting became stagnate again. So I prepared another email to send to the same candidates from a different address to instruct them to check their spam folder, because I wanted to make sure they saw it before the deadline we had given them. Unfortunately, members of our planning group instructed me not to send that email because they feared it would create even more distractions. So I waited.
In the meantime, candidate “S2” found and opened her email and completed the form within, providing her home address, phone number and tshirt size. Was it a setup?
Because we had already been working with the other candidate on that ticket, Jenna Fracasso, I sent follow up questions to “S2” to try to differentiate between the two of them, so the nominating committed could make an informed decision. She did not respond before the deadline. Jenna had already been attending People’s Agenda meetings and confirmed to us that she supported the shared vision of the Coalition, so the nomination for the endorsement went to Jenna instead of candidate “S2.”
They indicated someone received an unsolicited late night unannounced visit.
Despite not receiving our nomination, I still wanted “S2” to have the tshirt she had ordered. Since time was of the essence, I didn’t want to risk mail time delaying the receipt of the tshirts. (Ironically, Tammy Berlin condemned me on her personal FB page, and specifically criticized the estimated 2-3 week delivery time I had posted regarding the tshirts. She did not realize I had a batch in the works that I was planning to deliver to those who ordered early. Seems like no matter what I do, it is a no-win situation with her.) In addition to dropping off “S2’s” tshirt, I made several other contactless deliveries to candidates that Friday evening with no “incident.”
Using the address and phone number provided by “S2” on the form, I placed a package containing the tshirt she requested on her doorstep. Due to concerns that she may mix it up with some trash and other packaging that was also on her doorstep, I called her (again using the phone number she provided to me for this purpose) to let her know it was there, after I drove away. We had a great conversation. I explained why she didn’t get the nomination and she indicated she understood. She told me her reasons for running, which sounded in alignment with our work, and I invited her to come to the next Zoom call. And that was that. Or so I thought.
Upon checking the campaign software again, I discover that Candidate “S2’s” email has been shared over 40 times, making it clear that it is her email that was forwarded to JCTA.
Since that time, only two other candidates have opened the email, one of whom has since withdrawn from the race. JCTA not only falsely claims this email was not sent to all candidates, but in fact prior emails I have sent to teachers have successfully been BLOCKED by JCPS’s Chief Information Officer at the request of JCTA. Could this have something to do with emails from me continuing to be buried in teachers’ spam folders?
The language in their email is right in line with their other historical tactics of suppression, using words like solicitation, security, security, personal information, “undo what has been done” etc. They imply that our endorsements and support are somehow shady and put their favored candidates at a disadvantage, when in fact their white incumbents are arranging drop-in visits at PR meetings, sending rah rah emails to members with their faces and names all over them, and hosting zoom calls with high profile legislators like Morgan McGarvey, indicating that he has endorsed their lily-white slate. In fact, Ivonne brought this misstep to Morgan’s attention and he indicated he was mortified. We have invited him to join our next call, but as of yet, the time has not been confirmed.
Hypocrisy and false narratives
Regardless, and this is important, there is NO REQUIREMENT, and in fact it is incredibly HYPOCRITICAL, for them to assert that all candidates deserve equal opportunity to apply for an endorsement from our committee. LOOK AT BSK, for Heaven’s sakes! Are they practicing what they preach? No! We sent the email in an attempt to be as inclusive as possible and model what democratic and fair elections should look like. It should alarm everyone reading this post that they are acknowledging that this is something they condemn.
Endorsements can and have been made based upon the endorsing entity’s knowledge of a candidate’s work, platform, and presence at our meetings. Our endorsements require candidates share our vision for third-party organizations in JCPS. We are an anti-racist organization. Therefore, individuals who have been enablers of white supremacy would be problematic to endorse, regardless of their completion of any forms or “agreement” to support our vision. Our meetings are open to the public and have been advertised as such repeatedly (including on the “controversial” email). Our coalition works as a consensus and anyone is welcome to bring their ideas and opinions, but at the end of the day, we have an elected committee and we vote on who to endorse. This is a structure that was created and has been followed since the tax increase endorsement in November, with no objections.
The real reason this is happening.
We are exposing things they don’t want people to see. We are presenting, for the first time in 20 years, a threat to Brent McKim’s dynasty that he has so carefully built, orchestrated and protected. He’s conducting elections using 15-year-old software that he commissioned and controls. There is no reason to believe he is not able to monitor votes in real time, see who is voting for and against his picks, and adjust tactics and messaging to his benefit.
We have received numerous testimonies from people who have had their President’s power and support dangled in front of them to intimidate them into voting for him and/or not speaking out against him. Members have repeatedly requested paper ballots, and in the Fall of 2019, another motion was passed by the PRs to go to paper ballots so there would be a paper trail and a way to validate results, but magically, electronic ballots keep resurfacing. When one man ultimately controls the software used to gather and tabulate ballots, would he not be able to report whatever election results he wants? Members are given no choice but to trust the winners and losers announced at the end of the election. And as we saw with the botched BSK election, without a paper trail, there is no way for “losers” to challenge the results and request a recount.
It is my belief that members’ demands for transparency and democracy ahead of tomorrow’s JCTA elections is why these entrenched leaders are trying to discredit and dismantle our Coalition’s rich history and important work. Fear that they could have their power taken away is causing them to lash out at those seeking truth and accountability. Their actions are intended to cause confusion for members, making them want to distance themselves from the controversy and discomfort.
History is chock full of racist, white supremacist acts like this. Once we recognize them for what they are, we must honor the work of those who founded an alliance that is specifically against racist and political repression, by continuing to stand against these heinous acts! NOW MORE THAN EVER! It’s time!
I’ve sent messages to the superintendent and the commissioner letting them know what is happening. We’ve also reached out to the League of Women Voters to ask for their assistance in certifying the election results. Whatever they are saying about “outside influencers” is a distraction. This election has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with entrenched, white JCTA Members staying in power.
Teachers, I’m not asking you to take my word for any of these claims. I’m attempting to provide you with information they don’t want you to have, and encouraging you to do your own research. After all, it’s your pension and profession, not mine, that hangs in the balance. But it’s all Louisvillian’s whose tax dollars will be left footing the bill when your pension fails and vouchers siphon resources away from our public schools. And it’s future generations of vulnerable students who will suffer the consequences.