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Challengers to Fletcher Could Emerge at UTLA Conference

Hillel Aron | August 2, 2013

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Clockwise from left: Warren Fletcher, Gregg Solkovits, Alex Caputo-Pearl, Jose Lara

Clockwise from left: Warren Fletcher, Gregg Solkovits, Alex Caputo-Pearl, Jose Lara

The teachers union’s annual Leadership Conference starts today (click here to see the program), and perhaps the biggest question on members’ minds is who will rise to challenge UTLA President Warren Fletcher as he seeks reelection in January.

Filing won’t officially begin until December, but the campaign season begins today.

“Most slates [of candidates] are going to be announced this weekend,” said UTLA Area Chair Jose Lara. “There will be flyers passed out at all the general sessions. There will be socials, and campaign parties, so to speak.”

Fletcher is expected to run for a second three-year term. Alex Caputo-Pearl, a former teacher at Crenshaw High (which has been reconstituted) is widely assumed to be running for president on a slate of candidates supported by the Progressive Educators for Action, or PEAC, a caucus within UTLA whose platform includes a call to end “the growth of corporate charter schools” and “standardized testing to determine students’ futures.”

Caputo-Pearl declined to comment.

Lara himself said he was “still deciding whether or not to throw my hat into the ring.” Lara, who is also running for the El Rancho Unified Board of Education, has been a fierce critic of Fletcher.

“Warren Fletcher has led our union down the wrong direction,” he said. “We have seen a series of constant losses. Any victories we get are despite Warren Fletcher, not because of him.”

As examples, he cited  the passing of Proposition 30 and Monica Ratliff’s shocking victory over Antonio Sanchez for LA Unified board member. UTLA had endorsed both candidates, and Fletcher actually showed up to Sanchez’s campaign night party.

Lara added that Fletcher had done nothing to back up UTLA’s Initiative for the Schools L.A. Students Deserve, which the membership passed overwhelmingly after Fletcher lent his support to it and called for the union to take a more aggressive stance on district policies, such as class sizes and the restoration of Adult Education.

“Warren has done everything to disrupt campaign,” said Lara. “He has paid lip service to it, [but also] obstructed it.”

UTLA Vice President Gregg Solkovits is also considered to be a possible candidate; he didn’t return a phone call, seeking comment.

One last possibility is a slate of “school-reform” minded teachers, akin to those involved in the now-defunct NewTLA, which hasn’t met for about a year. Although they are currently not organized under any one group, they are associated with organizations like TeachPlus and Teachers for a New Unionism. These teachers are more amenable to reforms favored by Superintendent John Deasy, such as the use of test scores in teacher evaluations.

A few of these teachers are planning to present a proposal at the conference that would take all UTLA voting online.

The conference will also include “core training,” which, according to the program’s introductory letter, will “offer concrete guidance on three pressing issues: countering the destabilizing threat of Parent Trigger, understanding teacher evaluation, and building better schools through community and political organizing.”

Other highlights include caucus meetings, Fletcher’s “State of the Union” speech and a screening of the film Lincoln.

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