Modesto Teachers Association board votes down deal with CTA

naustin@modbee.comJune 6, 2014 

A proposed settlement between the Modesto Teachers Association and its state affiliate, the California Teachers Association, was voted down by the MTA board of directors this week, and both sides say they expect to proceed to court June 27.

The legal battles stem from the Modesto leadership’s move to break away from the state union, an effort soundly defeated by MTA members when put to a vote.

On the eve of the balloting, however, the statewide group imposed a trusteeship, saying the election being held under local procedures did not meet CTA requirements the chapter was legally bound to follow. The Modesto association sees itself as independent of those rules.

For now, a temporary restraining order granted May 15 has the MTA in charge of its finances and the trusteeship on hold. A full hearing on motions from both sides, set for May 30, was delayed in hopes of an out-of-court settlement.

“On June 4, 2014, the mediated settlement was presented to the MTA Board of Directors. In a 5-to-2 decision, the MTA (board) rejected the proposed settlement,” wrote MTA President Doug Burton in a letter sent to members Wednesday.

“MTA leadership understands that our membership voted to stay affiliated with CTA, and we are trying to work cooperatively to move forward. What MTA leadership is resisting is the complete takeover of MTA by CTA,” Burton wrote.

The letter said MTA had offered to amend its bylaws and have Executive Director Megan Gowans resign – which she has announced she will do June 30 in any case – and fill the post with someone who would not remain on the Modesto City Schools rolls as an active teacher.

It was the Modesto union’s practice of paying the director through the school district that caused the rift with the state union initially and is the focus of a California State Teachers Retirement System investigation.

MTA attorney Rafael Ruano said the rejected settlement was “a basis for agreement,” arrived at after two meetings, many emails and phone calls.

“MTA was willing to return to essentially the status quo prior to the attempted trusteeship, with both CTA and MTA agreeing to leave unresolved the issue of whether or not CTA can actually impose the trusteeship,” Ruano said by email Thursday. “In the end, the MTA board decided that it could not agree to a settlement that essentially resulted in a ‘soft’ trusteeship by CTA.”

Ruano said the issue is that Modesto never agreed to give its state affiliate such control.

“MTA’s position continues to be very simple: While MTA has had and continues to have a contractual relationship with CTA, MTA does not agree that this contract gives CTA the power to take it over when it disagrees with actions it is taking,” he wrote.

The CTA-appointed trustees initially moved to seize the MTA’s assets and run the office. Once the local association’s bylaws aligned with state rules and a new local election validated its leadership, the state organization’s appointees would exit, said CTA trustee Bill McMurray.

McMurray said Friday that he was not part of the negotiations. “It is only after any court action that would validate the trusteeship that the trustees would come into the scene with any authority,” he said. If any settlement is reached, he added, “we (the trustees) are simply waiting in the wings, so to speak.”

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.

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