Under a 'Trusteeship' the VEA would provide oversight of the PWEA

Seven PWEA Board Members Sign Association Into Trusteeship with VEA

President says the agreement is illegitimate

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Members of the Prince William County Education Association’s Board of Directors and the PWEA President disagree as to whether the association has legitimately entered a binding trusteeship with the Virginia Education Association.

Monday evening, seven members of the Prince William Education Association signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enter the PWEA into a trusteeship with VEA. The trusteeship would allow the VEA some oversight over the PWEA Board of Directors and procedures.

President’s Memo- Oct. 26

In a memo sent to members on Tuesday morning, PWEA President Maggie Hansford said the MOU was illegitimate as the PWEA bylaws and constitution do not allow for it.

"Last night, members of the PWEA board arrived at the PWEA office to potentially discuss the partially-announced MOU (Memorandum of Understanding.)"

"The MOU drafted by the VEA would establish a trusteeship over PWEA, stripping PWEA members of their rights enshrined in the PWEA Constitution and Bylaws."

“PWEA Board members (Chuch Ronco, Gwen Edwards, Jamilia Darwish Oveta Scott, Connie Schumacher, David Kinsella, and Jennifer Rokasky) signed the MOU and left the building."

Hansford said that according to an attorney, signing the document would place members in violation of the PWEA bylaws.

"As of today," said Hansford, "I am still your President and I will continue to fight for ALL members of PWEA. I am proud that the following board members stood with me and refused to give away your voice: Wendy Marr, Cindy Gault, Bruce Smith and Dan Foose."

Hansford announced a public meeting for all members, Thursday, to "HAVE YOUR VOICES HEARD."

'Board' Memo- Oct. 26

A second memo sent Tuesday, attributed to “PWEA Board of Directors,” said that the MOU did pass. Hansford said that was an unsanctioned communication and should not have been attributed to the Board of Directors.

“As a spokesperson and President of PWEA, that email was not drafted, nor reviewed by the PWEA Board,” said Hansford. “That email was not on behalf of the PWEA board.”

Hansford said Jennifer Rokowski, a board member, directed staff to send that email even as she is not a spokesperson for the PWEA.

Hansford said at least five members were uninformed of the memo and communications should not be signed PWEA Board since no vote was taken.

The memo says that “the trusteeship would provide oversight to PWEA's Board,” It is not a “takeover,” it said, but an attempt to "bring stability to the PWEA Board."

According to the memo, NEA organizer was brought in to assist with "facilitating board relations," as they believe that they have become" irreconcilable,” including “bullying tactics,” by the President. It notes that eight members, who held leadership positions, resigned over the past year, as well as the PWEA receptionist.

VEA Memo - Oct. 26

VEA President James Fedderman sent an email memo as well. “Last night the PWEA Board of Directors also voted to enact the MOU, effective immediately.”

“As spelled out in the agreement approved by both the VEA and PWEA, VEA will establish a trusteeship to ensure that the PWEA’s important work can continue while supporting the current PWEA leadership and their strategic direction.”

“I want to assure you that all of PWEA’s vital work- from representing the needs of your students and your profession to advocating that you have a voice through the adoption of collective bargaining- will not be hindered in the least.”

“As your state president, I am confident that we will work through these current challenges and emerge stronger than ever.”

VEA announcement of MOU- Oct. 18

Members were notified of the proposed trusteeship on Oct. 18 (although some say they never received the email).

VEA President James Fedderman emailed a memo to PWEA members, saying that in closed session, the VEA Board of Directors approved the Memorandum of Understanding towards establishing a Trusteeship with the PWEA.

He said the MOU was “based on a number of concerning reports received by VEA staff and leadership,” and that the VEA decided to pursue this, “after many conversations with PWEA members and leaders over the past several months.”

The VEA would then host “town hall listening sessions” to answer member concerns.

Petition

The U.S. Department of Labor said that ‘TRUSTEESHIP’ is “any receivership, trusteeship or control whereby a labor organization suspends the autonomy otherwise available to a subordinate body under its constitution or bylaws.”

A petition to oppose the trusteeship has been circulating among members. The petition, entitled “MEMBERS AGAINST VEA Trusteeship Over PWEA,” says the undersigned “STRONGLY OBJECT,” and “WILL OPPOSE ALL TAKEOVER ATTEMPTS.

"Our important work has continued, despite the constant witch hunts and removal attempts, and we will continue to be represented thoroughly and appropriately by a president who has consistently delivered during this pandemic," the petition said.

"In addition, President Hansford has recruited members who have been working for better contracts through collective bargaining, member engagement, social justice, communication, more transparency, a more professional foot forward in technological and political arenas, alliances with other public sector employee unions, and so much more!"

"All of that would be a thing of the past if our organization is labeled as incapable of handling their own affairs and in need of a 'method of supervision of control…”

"No School Board will negotiate with an association in a trusteeship,” the petition said.

"Instead of working to improve our lives, as promised in the Fund Our Future campaign, VEA will end our chances for collective bargaining of contracts this year and for years to come. Most of us can't afford to let that happen."

The petition has received over 450 signatures in the two days since it was created.

Members Responses

Oveta Scott, Eastern Regional Director for the PWEA, and a member of the PWEA Board of Directors said the petition creates a “completely false narrative.”

“VEA is not taking over PWEA! It is not doing that. It is not true,” Scott said, in an Oct. 25 interview with Bristow Beat. “It is not correct!”

Scott said the VEA would provide some oversight, but there would be no reason for the school board to deny collective bargaining. She said it should not concern members as it is limited in scope.

The board asked that the VEA provide a new parliamentarian to oversee their meetings at the PWEA’s expense, oversee PWEA presidential election in spring, and oversee the creation of any new bylaws.

One member who was working to circulate the petition said the move to establish a trusteeship was a “power grab,” by the people involved.

In August, a group of board members held a recall. They needed ¾ of leadership, including reps, to vote to recall Hansford, but only secured approximately 20% of the votes.

The member believes that like the recall, this is another way to take power away from the president. She said that most members approve of Hansford, and the trouble is coming from a small number of people who have lost some of their power.

Heather Oberle, a building representative for PWEA, said the way the PWEA Board and VEA acted to establish a trusteeship speaks to a lack of transparency.

Why are members being excluded from this important decision, she asks. Why would a VEA town hall not be held before a vote? She questions if VEA leadership would be impartial after working with people for years.
Additionally, VEA recently changes its bylaws to allow for a trusteeship. It is not common practice.

The PWEA has more than 3,500 members, and its membership has grown over the last two months, during a time when surrounding counties have experienced dwindling membership.

A supporter of the petition cites the fact that the petition has garnered 450 signatures in just two days, which speaks to the members' support of the current PWEA, yet seven people made the decision.

Oberle said she believes the PWEA is more effective than ever. She appreciates that President Hansford handles issues at the state level, and thinks it is the way to enact real progress.

President Fedderman was contacted for this story on Oct. 25 but did not provide a comment. 

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