SEIU furious, plans to oust 2 school board members

Non-teaching employees of San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District are scouring the landscape for candidates to unseat school board members Susan Weber and Lea Dakota next year. The workers, members of Service Employees International Union Local 415, are responding to Weber and Dakota's "yes" votes in the board’s unanimous decision in April to cut the hours of several teaching assistants, union president Beth Thomas said.

SEIU members at that time picketed two school board meetings and pleaded unsuccessfully with the board to find money to avoid the reductions. "We are disappointed in the entire board," said Thomas, a middle school library media specialist. "The SEIU learned this year that we need to pay more attention to which candidates are elected to the board."

Thomas said it was "particularly stinging" that Dakota voted with the rest of the board because, as a former district employee, she had been an SEIU member.

The two are the only board members up for reelection Nov. 4, 2008.

Dakota said she intends to seek reelection and was surprised to hear that the union was looking for candidates. She had the SEIU's endorsement in the 2004 election.

"They're really miffed, and I understand that," Dakota said. "But I had to make a decision for the entire district. I wouldn't change my vote - I did my duty."

Weber also plans to run for another term.

"I'm sorry they're unhappy with my performance," she said. "I've worked very hard to do the best for the students of our district."

Thomas said trustees almost always accept the recommendations of the district administration.

Superintendent Julie Haff had recommended the staff cuts because state funds used for the salaries had dwindled.

"It's not healthy to have a board that doesn't question the superintendent," Thomas said.

"The board doesn't understand how many members of the community are members of a union. This isn't just about the hundred of us in SEIU."

Thomas said the incumbents would be welcome to ask for the union's endorsement.

"They would be considered," she said, "but somehow I don't see them coming to us."

The April cuts involved four jobs being reduced by a total of 12.1 hours a day, saving the district $63,864 annually.


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