Glendale teachers battle union leader

Glendale teachers have started a campaign to convince their union president, Tami Carlson, to sign off on a federal grant application that could bring millions of dollars to the district.

Without Carlson's signature, Glendale Unified cannot apply for the national Race to the Top grant that could bring up to $40 million to the district over four years.

School district officials have so far been unable to get Carlson past a stipulation attached to the federal money — that standardized student test scores be factored into teacher job evaluations. Teachers unions across the nation have steadfastly fought using student test scores in teacher evaluations, leading to pitched battles with their school boards.

But in Glendale, there has been less push-back, particularly among the rank-and-file, a growing number of whom have grown increasingly upset that union leaders are unilaterally jeopardizing the grant application.

An online campaign titled “Fight to Take Back the Glendale Teacher's Union” — initiated by Hoover High School teacher Mary Anna Pomonis — calls on teachers to urge Carlson to sign off on the grant application.

“A lot of people in the district are disappointed in the GTA leadership and question the decisions being made on the behalf of teachers,” Pomonis wrote in an online letter to her peers. “The current [union] leadership picks fights with the district, makes unilateral decisions without membership support and protects disgruntled teachers.”

Carlson did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but in an email to Pomonis — also posted on the website — she argued that the Race to the Top money came with too many strings attached to make permanent concessions on how teachers are evaluated.

“In this economy, if it can't be used for teachers in the classroom, it is not worth it,” Carlson wrote.

But several teachers have indicated their support of accepting test scores as part of the job evaluation process, particularly at a time when Glendale Unified faces a $15-million structural deficit heading into the next school year.

And while the Race to the Top grant money cannot be used directly to fund full-time teachers, it will be available for a broad range of programs and could be used to pay for in-classroom teacher intervention specialists.

Meanwhile, the clock for submitting the application is ticking. Glendale Unified must adhere to a strict timeline in terms of securing support from a number of stakeholders. In addition to the union, the district must also send the application to the city's mayor for his signature in time for official submission by the end of the month.

Without any one component, the district would be disqualified in what is expected to be a highly competitive process.

After failing to reach an agreement in negotiations on Thursday, district officials are scheduled to meet with the Glendale Teachers Assn. again Oct. 16.

“We feel that there are very minor changes to our current teacher evaluation system in order for the district to be a solid contender to the Race to the Top,” said Maria Gandera, director of human resources for the district. “We really are optimistic that both GTA and GUSD can come to an agreement.”

Glendale school board members have agreed to using student test scores so long as they are not the sole component of job performance evaluations.

Follow Kelly on Twitter @kellymcorrigan.

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