Friday, May 09, 2008

Turmoil Racks Teachers Union

National Group Intervenes Amid Officers' Battle, Recall Drive

By V. Dion Haynes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 5, 2008; Page B04

The Washington Teachers' Union is facing a management crisis involving infighting between the president and vice president, an intervention by its parent organization and a recall drive targeting all the officers.

Five years after being placed in receivership by the American Federation of Teachers, after the embezzlement of millions of dollars in teachers' dues by then-President Barbara Bullock, the union is grappling with a host of internal and external pressures that threaten the viability of the organization, leaders say. Last week, at the request of the union's board, the national union dispatched a representative to work full time in the office to assess the operation and then devise and help implement a plan for fixing the problems.

Turmoil in the 4,200-member Washington union is surfacing at a pivotal time: The organization is grappling with the coming displacement of hundreds of teachers through Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's plans to close 23 schools and reorganize 27 others as well as her efforts to weaken long-standing job protections under a contract being negotiated. Meanwhile, membership has been eroding steadily, with fewer teachers needed to accommodate a rapidly shrinking enrollment.

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