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Alex Caputo-Pearl was declared the new UTLA president today as he overwhelmed incumbent Warren Fletcher in the second-round of voting, the LA teachers union announced today.
After outpolling Fletcher 2-1 in the first round, Caputo-Pearl beat him by more than 4-to-1 in the runoff, with 5,801 votes (80.18 percent) to Fletcher’s 1,434 (19.82 percent).
In a statement to LA School Report, Caputo-Pearl congratulated Fletcher on his “very important and continuing service to UTLA” and thanked him for his “gracious approach to this election.”
“With the Union Power team sweeping this election, UTLA members have given its leadership a mandate for our union to lead in the fight for the schools LA students deserve and the respect LA educators deserve,” he said.
“The mandate is for an approach that builds power through aggressive organizing of the membership and organizing of broad coalitions with parents and community to more effectively fight for class size reduction, staffing for safe, clean, well-rounded schools, the pay increase educators deserve, and more – and it equips us to fight against LAUSD’s cynical teacher jails and the broader climate of fear and school destabilization they promote.”
In a statement issued by the union, Fletcher congratulated Caputo-Pearl and said, “Now, more than ever before in our organization’s history, the teachers and Health and Human Services professionals of Los Angeles must speak in a united voice. Now that our election is completed, we will all join together to support Alex and his team as we continue to fight for the quality public schools that our students deserve.”
The union said the voting result is pending challenge and must be certified by the UTLA board to be official. All new officers and the board of directors take office on July 1 and will serve a three-year term through June 30, 2017.
It’s highly doubtful Fletcher would challenge the result, in that he announced after the first round of voting that he was abandoning active campaigning, given the apparent one-sided support for Caputo-Pearl, an LA Unified teacher for more than a decade.
Caputo-Pearl’s triumph, which followed a bitter controversy over his campaign appearances during school hours, signals a major change in the direction of the union, toward more aggressive tactics in achieving policy.
One of his enduring campaign themes was criticizing the current union leadership for a lack of assertiveness in fighting LA Unified on issues that affect teachers. Caputo-Pearl also advocated for a strike if demands were not met, with the firm backing of his Union Power compatriots.
Whether his victory also signals a more consolidated union remains to be seen. Barely a quarter of the 31,500 members voted for president in either round.
It also remains unclear how the election results will match up with a newly-constructed school board, that is holding elections of its own. A special election is scheduled for June 3 to replace the exceedingly pro-union member Marguerite LaMotte, who died in December after 10 years on the board.
The front runner is George McKenna, who is known not to be a favorite of the union. And vice versa. UTLA has endorsed three candidates with UTLA relationships — Sherlett Hendy-Newbill and Rachel Johnson, both of whom are current LA Unified teachers, and Hattie McFrazier, who is a former LA Unified teacher and current health and human services administrator.
The second round of voting also concluded two other runoffs, with Scott Mandel defeating Alex Orozco for the Valley East Area Chair and Bruce Newborn beating Wendi Davis for the Valley West Area Chair.
That gave Caputo-Pearl’s Union Power slate a near sweep of elections. Mandel was the only winner who was not aligned with the Union Power slate.
The second round did not resolve all elective issues for the union. Thirteen positions, including four vice president slots, secretary and treasurer, remain under challenge.
By union rules, the winners take their seats provisionally while the challenges play out. The initial review panel is the UTLA election committee, which either sustains or overrules the challenge. The loser has the right to appeal to an independent arbitrator, whose decision is final. But that process could take months and delay the full force of Caputo-Pearl’s policy thrust.
“This is an exciting time for our union and district,” said Linda Yaron, a UTLA chapter chair and 12th grade English teacher at the School for the Visual Arts and Humanities, RFK campus. “I hope we use the momentum from the election as an opportunity to propel union and district leadership towards greater solutions-based collaboration that is focused on student learning.”
*Adds comment from Warren Fletcher