Measure S supporters celebrate, look to future

Just days after voters soundly rejected opposition from the Glendale Teachers Assn. to Measure S and incumbent school board member Mary Boger, critics say the outcome bolsters their assertions that the union is out of touch.

The union’s opposition to Measure S — the $270-million school bond — stoked the ire of Glendale Unified school board members, parents and its own dues-paying members. So too did its campaigning — the union spent more than $40,000 championing school board candidates Nayiri Nahabedian, who was reelected, and Ingrid Gunnell. Union funds were also used to swipe at Boger in the run-up to Tuesday’s election.

The union’s expenditures, which exceeded those of any one school board candidate but fell well below the $160,000 spent by the Yes on S campaign, produced mixed results. Union-favorite Nahabedian was reelected, but so was Boger.

And despite the union's anti-Measure S stance, the bond garnered 69% of the yes vote, well above the 55% needed to pass.

It is unclear how many of Glendale Unified’s 1,400 teachers supported the bond — the union did not solicit input from all of its members — but they turned up by the dozens at pro-Measure S events, including an election night party.

“There was no hesitation, whatsoever,” Wilson Middle School teacher Kris Kohlmeier said of deciding to  breaking rank with the union to throw his support behind Measure S. “There are hundreds of us in Glendale that were upset that the union took this stance without even surveying the rank-and-file of the union.”

Administrators and parents said they have the utmost respect for the district’s teachers, but added that they would have preferred to see the union invest its resources in a manner that directly benefited students.

“I would hope in the future they would find more productive things to spend their money on,” said Michael Bertram, associate principal at Crescenta Valley High School.

Union President Tami Carlson could not be reached for comment, but some teachers said that the union has been unfairly vilified. Union officials tried in good faith to negotiate, only to be derided by school board members, said Toll Middle School teacher Marcelyn Bible.

“I would like to see GUSD and GTA sit down and in a true spirit of compromise and understanding, set down usage for that $19 million to secure classes and to secure teachers,” Bible said.

The Glendale Teachers Assn. opposed the bond after the district refused to guarantee that approximately $19 million in the general fund freed up by the bond would be used to maintain class sizes at current levels.

School board President Greg Krikorian said the strong backing of Measure S at the polls proves voters are invested in improving schools. He described the union’s opposition as “unfortunate.”

“Our first priority is protecting teacher jobs and giving our students the best education possible,” Krikorian said. “That being said, there is a GTA election coming up this May and it is my hope that teachers step up among themselves and bring some leadership and new vision.”

Whatever the political implications, teachers said they are already looking forward to the changes the bond will bring.

Glendale Unified officials said they anticipate selling the first round of bonds — $54 million worth — by September. They expect to leverage the money to bring in millions of dollars in matching funds, as was done with Measure K, a $186-million bond passed in 1997.

The money is earmarked for major renovations and technology upgrades in classrooms.

“I am delighted at the passage of Measure S,” said Wilson Middle School teacher Gerald Lancaster. “The upgrading of technology will allow me to prepare students for this century, not the mid-20th Century.”

FOR THE RECORD: This amends an earlier version that incorrectly stated the union spent money actively campaigning against Measure S.

Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World