California Educator

August 2014

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Page 52 of 73

CTA & You Fola Odebunmi's involvement in her union comes down to one thing: her students. "I would gravitate to anything that empowers them," says the eco- nomics professor at Cypress College, a community college in Orange County. "The role of the faculty is vital in that. If you have a satisfied faculty, you will have satisfied students." Union activism is nothing new to Odebunmi. Her participation goes back to her years protesting the military regime in Nigeria as a uni- versity professor. When the political upheaval became intolerable, she emigrated to the United States. Here, despite the absence of union representation for part-timers at the time, she became a founding member of a part-time faculty union. Later, when she was hired as a full-time professor at Cypress College, she became president of the Academic Sen- ate, and then an active member of the North Orange County Com- munity College District Faculty Association. After serving on the ne- gotiating team, she was elected vice president and then president of the chapter association, and went on to serve as a board member of the Community College Association. Now she serves as a CTA State Council representative. "Being on State Council has given me an opportunity to be more involved with CTA and to learn about issues that affect us on a state level," she says. On campus and in the community, she has been involved in a variety of activities that have advanced the academic achievement of ethnic minority students, as a volunteer mentor with the Puente Pro- gram and with the Orange County INROADS, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to find talented minority students and develop them into corporate and community leaders. She has also been involved in her share of protests for increased funding for schools and colleges. "I get involved because I truly believe that students are the future of this nation. They should be a high priority in the budget and shouldn't have to go begging," she says. She encourages educators to get involved: Take a proactive stance on issues impacting educational policies and opportunities. Make informed decisions on issues affecting your working condi- tions and required resources for getting your work done. Be a role model for your students about being engaged and informed. Help to perpetuate democracy. We spoke with Cindi Lunsford, who has worked for the past 10 years as a special education paraprofessional in Las Virgenes Unified School District, Los Angeles County. She is currently the executive secretary of the Las Virgenes Classified Association. Why are you a CTA member? I like the support CTA offers, being part of a union, and having something bigger than just me as an individual looking out for students, schools and the people who work in them. ESP membership is a growing sector of CTA, and education support professionals weren't always part of our union. Have there been any challenges being a classified union in the CTA family? No, CTA does a great job of keeping us included and in the loop, and the state and local support they provide is outstanding. There's no sense that we're not fully integrated into the organization. You're on the bargaining team for your local. How is that going? Like in a lot of districts, the ESP salary increases usually reflect what the teachers get, which can be problematic if we don't all work together and another union settles early or forgoes salary for another issue. So we try and keep that communication going. Right now we're working on the reclassification of jobs. The district treats all special ed support the same, but the reality is our members deal with very different situations along the special needs spectrum. Kim Mina, our CTA staff person, is a great resource for us when we're at the bargaining table. We use her a lot. What other issues does LVCA deal with? There are safety issues, people getting hurt on the job, and those are reasons why it's so important f or support professionals to ha ve an ef fective union. We're also looking a t tr ying to get a gency fee pa yers in the near future. We've got a bout 300 LVCA members out of roughl y 500 bargaining unit members, and it will be better f or ever yone if we're all contributing and helping build a stronger union. Any other thoughts on being a CTA member? I can't imagine what our schools would be like without CTA. They are there fighting for funding at the state level and then helping us with local issues. I've had nothing but positive experiences being a member. CTA is always there when we need them. CINDI LUNSFORD Special ed paraprofessional FOLA ODEBUNMI Economics professor P H O T O B Y S C O T T B U S C H M A N C O U R T E S Y P H O T O

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