FAIRFIELD — You can’t fight the California Teachers Association and its union chapter at the Travis School District, says the lone incumbent running for the school board.
“They have the manpower,” Donna Bishop said of the Travis Unified Teachers Association.
Teachers union members have been walking precincts the past two weekends to support the two candidates – John Dickerson and Riitta De Anda – they endorsed for the Nov. 5 election, Bishop said. A single mom such as herself can’t undertake that, she said.
“For the teachers union to want me out means I’ve done something right for the kids,” Bishop said.
Bishop, who won the teachers union endorsement in 2009 when she ran for school board, said support for the district having the same vacation days is among issues that led to her losing union support. Teachers at Cambridge and Foxboro elementary schools like a longer spring break, Bishop said, so students at Vanden High School have to miss classes to take care of younger siblings.
Teachers also contend they’re underpaid and overworked, even though with a top pay scale of $72,000 to $78,000 a year they have the highest salaries in Solano County schools, she said.
Jeanette Wiley, president of the Travis teachers association, said Bishop is a little hypocritical in her criticism, since she sought the union’s endorsement. Bishop won its backing in 2009 but Wiley said decisions Bishop made as a board member meant Travis teachers are supporting other candidates.
“I have seen Ms. Bishop’s votes for the last four years, said Wiley, who attends school board meetings. “We decided we needed a new perspective.”
“We are not looking for a candidate who just supports teachers,” Wiley said. The association seeks trustees who see the big picture facing Travis schools, she said.
Travis School District teachers have taken pay cuts and while they may have been the highest paid in Solano County, she said, “I’m not sure that still stands.” Teachers see about 200 students a day and physical education teachers may have about 300 students, Wiley said, citing the demands teachers face.
If a Vanden High student misses classes to take care of younger siblings on a different school schedule, Wiley said, “That’s a family decision. That is not what teachers want.”
Candidate De Anda said the local teachers union has been fantastic about getting out elections mailers but that she wishes political campaigns were publicly funded.
“It’s amazing to me that something as low-key as a school board election requires money to get your message out,” she said.
De Anda also said that she knows a lot of teachers and their concerns. You cannot have conversations with people you antagonize. Bishop is disappointed at the teachers decision about which candidates to support, De Anda said.
“She’s a little bit upset with them because they didn’t endorse her,” De Anda said.
Dickerson said he didn’t win the teachers union endorsement two years ago when he sought a seat on the school board, but welcomes their support in the November election.
“From a business point of view they’re the people who are working for your business,” he said. “You want their backing.”
“These teachers are asked to do a lot of work,” he said.
Their compensation is less than people with similar education in other occupations, Dickerson said.
Bishop said the Oct. 17 candidates night put on by the teachers union was something of a joke. While moderator Jay Speck, superintendent of schools for Solano County, was neutral, she said, all but a few of the more than a dozen people attending the event were connected to the teachers union. Some questions asked candidates reflected union concerns, Bishop said.
Wiley said no mention was made about teacher union endorsements at the campaign forum, which was aimed at allowing the public to see candidates.
“I had 75 chairs,” Wiley said. “I wanted 75 voters.”
The Nov. 5 election will select two school board members to represent Area 2, which covers the Travis School District except for the Air Force base, which is represented by a trustee who lives on the base.
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.