Teachers' Union Official: We Were Communicating, Not Campaigning

Brian Dey, who is running for a seat on the Racine Unified School Board, said he's disappointed that teachers passed out postcards endorsing three incumbents on school property while school was in session.

UPDATE: Jack Bernfeld, executive director for the REA-REAA, said palm cards  were distributed to their union members prior to the work day starting on Monday. Students weren't in school on Monday because it was a staff development day. The cards reminded people to vote and listed the three incumbents names, which the REA Political Action Committee endorses.

"We weren’t doing this during work time and we communicate with our members in a variety of ways," he said. "I’m not aware of anything happening on Friday. I’m not sure if individuals were doing it, or if there was something else going on, but we were not as an organizations in the schools on Friday."

Bernfeld said they did the same thing in 2005 when they endorsed Dey.

ORIGINAL STORY: A Racine Unified School Board candidate is disappointed that teachers passed out postcards on school grounds endorsing incumbent candidates.

The candidate, Brian Dey, emailed Superintendent Ann Laing Tuesday about the issue. He says teachers passed out postcards at schools, when students had a three-hour early release on Fri., Feb. 17.

“It’s my understanding that union members were handing out postcards supporting three incumbents in the primary in several northside schools on Friday,” Dey said. “The policy is not supposed to be campaigning on school grounds or on school time.”

Dey has gone through something similar when he ran in 2005. A special interest group mailed out their campaign endorsements to the community and a question was raised about whether the mailing was really an endorsement, but a ruling was never made in the Racine County Circuit Court it was filed in, he said.

“All politicking stops on school grounds,” Dey said. “If the administration knows it’s going on and they are not enforcing it…. it only fuels the fire with the people who are not happy with the district.”

But in an email Laing sent to Dey this morning, she explained that she was not aware of what had transpired. However, she said she would “reinforce the policy.”

“The policy does state staff cannot engage in political activity on work time; however, staff cannot be prohibited from discussing political issues before and after school time or on their lunch period.  Freedom of speech covers their personal time,” she sated.

Calls made to the Racine Education Association were not returned.

GearHead February 21, 2012 at 06:49 PM
If Dr. Laing “reinforces the policy,” what does that mean? Suspend/fine the offending teachers? I doubt it. Teachers act out because they know there will be no punishment for breaking policy. A policy that is pretty easy to understand, and doesn't need to distinguish if they are on personal time or not. On the school grounds means their students become unwhitting (and unwilling) participants in their sleazy campaigning. That is an abuse of authority, but what we've come to expect on a daily basis from the members of the REA.
James R Hoffa February 21, 2012 at 07:50 PM
“The policy does state staff cannot engage in political activity on work time; however, staff cannot be prohibited from discussing political issues before and after school time or on their lunch period. Freedom of speech covers their personal time,” I beg to differ Dr. Laing - the First Amendment Constitutional protection of 'freedom of speech' has been deemed to be limitable to time, place, and manner restrictions pursuant to US Supreme Court case law precedence. If a teacher is on school property owned by the district that they are employed by, then it would be more than reasonable to label that teacher an official representative of the district while they are physically on that school property - whether they are technically considered to be 'on-the-clock' or not, as most teachers are salaried employees. Therefor, you could reasonably prohibit them from engaging in politicking whenever they are physically present on school grounds and such would not constitute a violation of their freedom of speech rights. Also Mr. Dey made Dr. Laing aware of the situation, so the appropriate response from Dr. Laing should have been - 'I'll find those responsible and guarantee that they will be punished/reprimanded accordingly,' instead of the wishy-washy response given. Once again, the public sector unions are trying to screw over Mr. Dey by acting above the law/regulation/policy. This clearly constitutes 'thuggish' behavior by those teachers/union members involved.
James R Hoffa February 21, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Vote BRIAN DEY for RUSD Board of Education!!!
C. Sanders February 21, 2012 at 07:52 PM
Well, the State test scores, in aggregate, demonstrate that the population of RUSD teachers, taken as a whole, cannot effectively teach. Soooooooo, what do they have left to do? Keep their jobs; keep the status quo, and continue to dumb down the future of all RUSD children.
C. Sanders February 21, 2012 at 07:53 PM
VOTE FOR BRIAN DEY RUSD Board of Education Give our children a future!
Try Try Again February 21, 2012 at 07:57 PM
Transparency is the watch word, right? What is more transparent than bringing this complaint to whatever public forum Mr. Dey can appropriate on Election Day?
James R Hoffa February 21, 2012 at 08:04 PM
How about 1) an admission from the district that policy was in fact being violated; 2) production of a list naming those teachers that violated the policy; and 3) some official disciplinary action from Superintendent Laing against those teachers that violated the policy. Instead, all we get from the district/Laing is that they'll “reinforce the policy.” I'm sorry, but that's the biggest crock of you know what that I've heard in a long time!
James R Hoffa February 21, 2012 at 08:07 PM
@Brian Dey - When you make it onto the Board, I sincerely hope that one of your first courses of action will be to replace Laing, as she's obviously demonstrating her incompetence to all of us here on Patch with such a crock response!
Brian Dey February 21, 2012 at 08:12 PM
This has been an ongoing problem in RUSD. Part of being a Board member is to hold the Superintendent accountable to the policies. As one who was directly responsible for writing the policies, I intend to fulfill my duty to enforce district employees, including the Superintendent should I get elected.
Stormy Weather February 21, 2012 at 09:13 PM
This is and has been an on going problem within our district. Take Schulte School for example. Last year the majority of the teachers were wearing red "Solidarity" (fish eating/chasing) fish shirts to school. They did this every Friday and many other days as well. The principal at the time (Mrs. Kritek) along with Dr. Shaw and numerous other RUSD administrators were well aware that this was an issue. They did nothing! The parents who picked their kids up from school saw teachers flaunting their political shirts all the time. And what affect did this have on the parents? Less volunteering and more families left via open enrollment, but apparently RUSD isn't worried about that. I mean really... Whats 850 students leaving the district (via open enrollment) when you have a HUGE number (14 students) coming into our district (via open enrollment)! Yes, RUSD is well aware that many of their teachers are using the public schools to do their political grandstanding. Here's another example of RUSD knowing that one of their teachers was over the top politically crazy and all they did was shift this teacher to another RUSD school. http://biggovernment.com/driehl/2011/03/03/wi-elementary-school-teacher-exposes-children-to-his-political-hatred/
C. Sanders February 21, 2012 at 09:52 PM
850 leave the district and 14 arrive. Sounds like we need to add more teachers. : )
James R Hoffa February 22, 2012 at 03:23 AM
"Jack Bernfeld, executive director for the REA-REAA, said palm cards were distributed to their union members prior to the work day starting on Monday." But where were theses cards distributed exactly? If it was done on district owned property, no matter what the time happened to be when they were distributed, then this is a violation of the anti-politicking policy, isn't it Mr. Bernfeld? If you want to peddle your campaign materials/ endorsements / etc. to your membership, either mail it to them or do so at your union hall, but not on the taxpayers property - is the policy really that difficult to understand Mr. Bernfeld? Also Mr. Bernfeld, as a union official, I’m sure you're aware of the term 'wildcatting.' If there is evidence that your members were distributing materials on Friday in violation of official policy, as there appears to be, then man up, take responsibility for it, and stop the unauthorized conduct - that's union management 101!!! The real Hoffa is crying in his grave right now!
Brian Dey February 22, 2012 at 06:11 AM
According to my sources, Mr. Bernfeld is not exactly telling the truth. Also, the union did no such thing to my knowledge in 2005. Monday was a scheduled time for teachers to work. I'm sure that Mr. Brownell, Mr. Pfost or myself would not be able to distribute literature in the school buildings on their scheduled work day. Again, this is a violation of the trust of those that pay their salaries and we haven't even campaigned yet.
GearHead February 22, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Yes I did smoke marajuana, but I didn't inhale - Bill Clinton. Sounds a lot like the excuse we are hearing from Mr. Bernfeld.
Denise Lockwood February 22, 2012 at 02:26 PM
@Hoffa -- it was in all of the schools prior to the in-service starting on Monday.
skinnyDUDE February 22, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Vote against the current board. These teachers need a reality check! The taxpayers Need to demand accountability of RUSD constant failures
mau February 22, 2012 at 08:22 PM
I heard enough to know that there is a united push to keep Brian Dey off the school board. Much as I hate to say it, we may have to decide which of the 3 (Brownell, Pfost or Dey) to pool our votes for. Seems to me Dey is definitely their target and would prove to be a real thorn in their side. One is better than none. This might be something to take a look at for Wisconsin. Parent Trigger: A New Right for the Parents of California http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TO0Acu15t6o In essence it forms a Parent's Union http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/08/education/08teacher.html?ref=us
James R Hoffa February 22, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Thanks Denise! Apparently, Mr. Bernfeld doesn't understand what is meant by 'no politicking on district property.' It's just really sad and unacceptable that the administration doesn't do anything about it.
Brian Dey February 22, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Mau- Keep the faith. There showing wasn't all that good. Yes, the union knows that I plan on using the tools given by Walker. I am a threat to their very existence. I was extremely honest with the union's interview, expecting they would make a big push to get me off during the primary. They were extremely motivated and the best they could muster was 4,000 votes in a primary where atleast 12,000 will be needed in the general election. It is our turn to motivate those who want better schools, more efficient spending nad future board members that will not cater to the unions, truly putting children first. Yes they have violated policy unchecked by the Superintendent, spread false rumors and still couldn't muster more votes. Our side basically sat out the primary after the Journal Times said the primary was a mute point and that all 6 remaining candidates would be on the general election ballot. Don't get me wrong, this is not going to be easy, but I think the plan we are bringing forth that they refuse to even discuss; neighborhood school, 9th grade out of the high schools and 6th out of the middle schools, expanding the REAL School and Walden and not closing Wind Point or Goodland, will prove to be the right direction and this election will be a referendum on this plan. Fiscally, after 2013 contract expires, the privatization of the SEIU jobs and using those savings to reduce taxes and put into the classroom.
Brian Dey February 22, 2012 at 10:50 PM
Also Mau, a serious look at 4K and the elimination of the program if it isn't yielding positive results. The elimination of the half days that are problematic for our parents. The requirement that if you are a salaried teach, which they are, they will be expected to work over and above the current 37.5 work week they have now, when needed. The implementation of Parent - Teacher conferences at each quarter to recieve their child's report card. Yes, there biggest fear is a board member that is going to demand excellence from the entire staff; who no longer will except excuse, only results. And of course, Mr. Bernfeld fears for his job, as he should, as well as the cush salary Mr. knotek recieves not only as a speech pathologist, but as a union leader. They have, instead of representing their profession, have denegraded by their illegal actions during the Act 10 passage, the recall effort and in this campaign. If that is the change you want to see, we need all three nonincumbents to win seats. It's not the time to give up (that's what they hope you will do) but to take them head on and expose them for what they are. The union leadership is destroying the reputation of one of the noblest of professions.
mau February 23, 2012 at 03:42 AM
I never felt 4K was a good thing and was more of a baby sitting service than anything else. And an expensive sitting service at that. Over the weekend I was clipping articles of interest from newspapers I had been saving from the past year. I kind of get behind on that job. I came across the articles regarding the referendum. The same incumbent board members were the creaters of that fiasco and now want to be re-elected to do the opposite. I found this from the Racine Taxpayers that falls along the same line as your proposals. http://www.racinetaxpayers.com/jtcommentary.html It's time for a new board.
Brian Dey February 27, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Update: I have sought the opinion of the GAB and I am currently in talks with the district's attorney. Teacher's campaigning during work hours is similar to Walker's aides campaigning during work hours, especially since this campaigning was done on behalf of incumbent school board members.


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