Education Matters: Humes ousted — wasting taxpayer money the union way

Marsha Sutton

The hypocrisy is astonishing.

In one case, the San Dieguito Faculty Association (San Dieguito Union High School District’s teachers union) claims a special election is needed to recall an appointed trustee because residents were denied a vote. But when voters duly elect a trustee from a different area, the union opposes constituents’ choice.

A special election in SDUHSD’s Area 5 should be held to give residents a chance to select their board representative, the union argues, because voters were disenfranchised when the school board, after vetting seven qualified candidates, unanimously appointed Ty Humes to replace resigned trustee Kristin Gibson.

Education Matters by Marsha SuttonEven the one union ally on the school board, Katrina Young, voted in favor of the Humes appointment.

But yet in Area 4, where the voters did select their representative to the board through a valid election process, the union wants to recall Area 4’s trustee, Michael Allman, who was elected by voters last year.

These scurrilous tactics would make Machiavelli blush.

The union is no longer in control of the district’s school board members. These disingenuous tactics are about nothing more than a loss of power.

The SDFA must be desperate. It’s been a long time, if ever, since this union has had a school board that didn’t vote in lockstep with its demands.

These elections in Areas 4 and 5 will each cost the district a possible $500,000 or more — money from the general fund that should be used for students.

In what world does it make sense for a union to force a school district to pay $1 million to overturn valid elections and appointments simply because it doesn’t like the trustees?

I’m not convinced the union is done doing damage. A recall petition of board President Maureen Muir would not surprise me.

Joyce Dalessandro, who served on the SDUHSD school board for more than 20 years, was challenged by a failed recall effort several years ago.

Although Dalessandro and I rarely saw eye-to-eye on most issues, I opposed the recall because it was based only on her voting record.

Unless an elected official commits a heinous or criminal act, recalls because of policy differences are a petulant way to behave and are an inexcusable waste of taxpayer money.

A June 2 San Diego Union-Tribune editorial on the failure of the recall effort against San Diego City Council President Jen Campbell expressed it best: “Policy differences should not be enough” to justify a recall.

In a May 28 column, U-T writer Charles Clark wrote about the “cancel culture,” saying that whenever there’s an attempt to see someone canceled, we should ask this question: Is it because “they caused genuine harm or do we want them punished because they expressed a view we disagree with?”

Humes ousted

Humes was immediately removed from his seat on the school board June 10 after the County Registrar of Voters notified the district that enough signatures on the petition orchestrated by the union were verified. A special election will be held some time in the next few months.

Humes’ removal happened one day before he was to hand out diplomas June 11 to Canyon Crest Academy graduates and the same day he was to represent the district at the Carmel Valley Middle School promotion ceremony. He was forced to miss both those events.

Ty Humes
Ty Humes

Signature verification was expected on June 18, but somehow the date was expedited and moved up one week, which resulted in Humes’ absence from graduation ceremonies and the June 10 school board meeting.

Humes, the first Black trustee in the San Dieguito district, has seen an outpouring of support since the challenge and said he will run for the seat to which he was appointed.

“I believe the community would not let me do otherwise,” he said. “I could probably use less stress in my personal life, but I have to run. We’re ready.”

He said one Black woman in the community insisted he run. “Moments reach out to you to make a difference rather than people searching out for moments,” she told him.

Humes told me last month when the union was gathering signatures that he rarely raises the issue of racism, but that in this case it’s a concern — perhaps not overt but an unconscious bias.

“That’s the most dangerous part because it’s unconscious,” he said.

Humes said San Dieguito in its history has had one Black principal, two Black assistant principals, and currently only one Black teacher in the district.

“They were ecstatic to have me in there and were really disgusted that I’m going through this,” considering the faculty’s professed support of the Black Lives Matter movement, he said.

Whoever the union supports to run against Humes may have a hard time convincing voters that there’s not an element of racism involved.

The union candidate will also need to justify the taxpayer expense of $500,000 to hold the election and to convince voters that Humes is not competent to serve.

Furthermore, anyone opposing Humes cannot be taken seriously unless they sought the appointment when the SDUHSD board was seeking candidates for the vacated seat. Someone the union picks out of thin air who wasn’t interested before is not a credible candidate.

Targeted for being independent

Humes said he was “really hurt” by the actions of the teachers union and didn’t understand why the union wants to get rid of him.

“I’m really saddened by the union, not even disgusted but saddened,” he said. “I expected better because they are a group of educators (who are) shaping the minds of young children.”

Humes has spent the past six weeks since his April 22 appointment meeting with students, student groups, parents and community members at every school to introduce himself and hear their concerns.

Some of these student groups were identity-focused: LGBTQ+, Asian, Black, Latinx, Muslim and others. He said the students told him that no one has ever met with them before and that they felt they could discuss prejudice with him in a way they couldn’t with adults who have not experienced racial, cultural or religious bias and hate.

Humes may have proven to be a union ally, given his upbringing by a mother who was a teacher in New York City and a father who was a Teamster and strong union member in the New Jersey and New York area.

But SDFA has quite likely burned that bridge now that it has attacked Humes.

“I couldn’t have any more affiliation with the union without being a member myself,” he said. “I thought they would understand that I had an open mind and an understanding of the role of the union and its importance in the history of America.”

But Humes professed to be independent, which proved to be his undoing.

“The fact is that I’m not taking a side and I represent the parents as everyone should,” he said.

And for this he has been targeted by the teachers union.

The recall

Area 4 Trustee Michael Allman, who ran his successful campaign last year on the issue of reopening schools as soon as pandemic health issues determined it was safe, was served a Notice of Intention to Circulate Recall Petition by SDFA President Duncan Brown, who, according to Allman, jumped out at him from the shadows after an 11-hour board meeting to deliver the notice.

Brown vehemently opposed Allman’s efforts to open schools when safe to do so and, with assistance from the California Teachers Association, sued the district in December to keep schools closed.

Michael Allman

Granted, Allman can sometimes behave like the proverbial bull in a china shop with his intensity and over-eager expressions of his points of view. But he stayed true to his base and his stance that kids needed to be back in school.

The union offered vague charges without specificity on its recall petition, none of which even remotely rise to the level of criminality.

In response to the petition, Allman wrote that placing students first is “my commitment to those who elected me, and I fight for them every day.”

He refuted all the union’s claims against him, and wrote: “The recall is backed by the teachers union who no longer controls this board.”

In an email to supporters, Allman said, “Mr. Brown (the SDFA president) has been vocal in his disdain for me since I called him out for his refusal to work with the school board to allow the children of the district to safely return to school.

“Rather than work cooperatively with the board, Mr. Brown sowed dissent within school staff, ignored board directives, threatened labor action if he didn’t get his way, and disseminated false and misleading information.

“Mr. Brown and the CTA (California Teachers Association) used our children as hostages and bargaining chips for his political benefit. Eventually we prevailed, but not without a fight.”

Allman summed it up best when he said, “The efforts of the SDFA to lead a recall campaign in Area 4 and the petition for a Special Election in Area 5 have nothing to do with putting students first and everything to do with maintaining union control of the San Dieguito Union High School District Board of Trustees.”

In a Facebook post, Allman said, “This is not about ‘democracy.’ This is a power-play by the teachers union.”

“Mr. Brown and his union supporters are used to controlling the school board, which had a union-backed majority for more than 20 years,” he said. “They don’t like losing power, so they react the only way they know how — by trying to recall a duly-elected trustee who dares to put the interests of parents and students ahead of politics.”

He said he remains “open to dialog and collaboration with teachers who recognize the importance of focusing on the needs of students,” distinguishing between individual teachers and their union.

The Area 4 recall petition requires 5,008 valid signatures from Area 4 residents, according to the county Registrar of Voters.

Protection money

If voters end up electing Humes in the special election, will the union accept the result as a free and fair election?

“They obviously couldn’t in Area 4 where the union hopes to recall Mr. Allman after winning his election,” said Pam Slater-Price, who retired from the San Diego County Board of Supervisors after 20 years of service. “These unionists sound like Trumpers who refuse to accept the will of the voters unless it coincides with their special interests.”

How disappointing that the union had our extremely well-qualified first Black member of the SDUHSD board removed, necessitating an expensive special election.

— Dede Alpert, former state senator

“How disappointing that the union had our extremely well-qualified first Black member of the SDUHSD board removed, necessitating an expensive special election,” said former state Sen. Dede Alpert.

“These people have no shame,” she said. “Recalls are supposed to be used for a representative not performing his or her duties, not because the person won the election and your side lost.”

Some San Dieguito teachers have quietly professed dissatisfaction with their union’s methods. But going up against mobster-like coercion is not dissimilar to protection money that storeowners and homeowners have historically been forced to pay to gangsters so they would not cause personal harm or property damage.

Coercive union behavior is on full exhibit in a recent notice sent to all SDFA members, which reads in part: “In an effort to support our recall and special election efforts, we will be transferring $5 per month per member from our regular dues collection into our SDFA Political Action Committee fund.”

The notice explains that the school board majority has traditionally been supportive of union interests, but not anymore.

The funds will be used to promote union-endorsed candidates for both elections, it reads.

To decline to pay into the union’s PAC to oust Humes and Allman, members must opt out by identifying themselves and signing their names to the form, rather than opting in.

It will take a brave teacher to identify themselves in this way. Protection money indeed.

Teachers unions exist to work for teachers, not students. Confusing the two issues is what has traditionally gained voter support for union candidates. But voters are growing wise to the need to separate union interests from student interests.

Voters in both Areas 4 and 5 (located in the southernmost part of the San Dieguito district, in Del Mar and parts of Carmel Valley) can expect heavy financial backing from local and state teachers unions to get their candidates elected.

Residents may see campaign signs and mailers as we get closer to both elections (assuming enough valid signatures for Area 4 can be collected) that say: “Teachers support Candidate XYZ for school board.”

But what this really should say is that the teachers union supports the candidate, not necessarily the teachers.

Demands for both the special and recall elections are a contemptible power grab and unconscionable waste of public money. Hopefully, constituents will recognize these divisive tactics for what they are.

Marsha Sutton is a local education journalist and opinion columnist and can be reached at suttonmarsha[at]

Columns represent the views of the individual writer and do not necessarily reflect those of the North Coast Current’s ownership or management.

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