California Educator

October 2014

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Advocacy Yolanda Benito Imperial County Office of Education Teachers Association Brian Dennert Simi Educators Association How did you get involved in your chapter's political recommendation process? I am on the rep council and I volunteered to participate in the candidate interviews for school board. This year is the second round I've been directly involved in. Why did you get involved? I work and live in same town and wanted to help ensure that our recommended can- didates are aligned with the values of our union. My kids go to school here and I have personal as well as professional reasons for wanting the best school district possible. Simi is a relatively conservative community. Is it difficult to find electable candidates who support education and union values? No. We invite all candidates to inter view and if someone is overtly anti-union they don't usually respond. In addition to bread-and- butter issues like collective bargaining and health benefits, we want to know what vision they have for our schools. Many of our candidates come with good ideas for the future and a strong record of past involve- ment with the PTA or a local foundation. And unless someone is really an outlier, the conser vative or liberal labels don't really come into play on those school vision issues. Our members reflect the political spectrum of the community and that shows in our candidate recommendations. What would you say to members hesitant about getting involved in local school board races? Instead of trying to persuade a board mem- ber on the wrong side of an issue, it's a lot easier to elect someone who shares your val- ues. If we're all working from the same basic philosophy, that's better for both students and teachers in the long run. As local chapter president, you've said that it's important to be involved locally in the political process. What's been the most helpful to you? Start planning at least two years prior to an election or as early as possible because chapter presidents take a formal recommendation of candidates and positions on issues through indi- vidual chapter representative councils. For this 2014 election, we started planning and working in 2012, targeting positions for change or support, and looking for possible candidates. To me, it's the formative part of the recommendation and election process. Any advice for those serving on the election committee? Trust the process. At times it may seem daunting but there are many people willing to assist you. Members should know it will be a lot of work. However there are so many CTA resources and experts willing to help. And many of those experts are our colleagues. What do you mean? We work collaboratively with CTA members throughout our region to develop questions for candidates that are pertinent to the good of the whole. Everyone needs to be educated so all students have access to an excellent education. So when your local association decides the current school board member or superintendent needs to be changed, as a leader in your or- ganization you will be called upon to understand the issues, and to begin the process. Then the wave of CTA support you experience will be phenomenal. 29 V O L U M E 1 9 I S S U E 3

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