Song of Themselves

DCTA president Kim Ursetta’s full endorstatement on Michael Bennet was just posted by Alan, where she concludes:

Michael Bennet would bring new ideas and approaches to the U.S. Department of Education.

This press release was sent to the media on Tuesday, and neither posted on the DCTA site or sent to DCTA members. On Wednesday however, DCTA members received the DCTA Newsletter (Vol 2, Issue 15) in which the central column reads:

Bennet as Potential Secretary of Education

DCTA has been getting a lot of media calls regarding Bennet’s potential selection as US Secretary of Education.  Understand that a statement of fact is not in an of itself an endorsement. The statement characterized Mr. Bennet as a non-traditional superintendent that is willing to talk with us, even when we disagree.  It also discussed the district’s School Performance Framework, and our support of it’s [sic] use of multiple measures of student achievement. We also indicated that he had supported us in our efforts to start a teacher-led school. Know that DCTA is working closely with NEA to advocate for the best interests of DCTA members and public school employees across the country.

While it’s always fun to catch people talking out of both sides of their mouths, and cynics might believe this is an intentional strategy where it is in DCTA’s best interest locally if Bennet were to leave, I think there is more here.

This dual approach — praise, then distance — shows the sheer difficulty of being the head of the DCTA: on the one hand you surely have to work with a superintendent as popular and visible as Bennet — particularly when his ProComp update received 77% of DCTA votes — yet you also have to placate your core union members, the most vocal and hardcore of whom believe that any cooperation is a sellout.

Let’s take Ursetta at her word: she called for a no-confidence vote, praises Bennet for honest dialogue and supporting a few popular union initiatives, then is clear that this in no way means she is abandoning the base.  That’s is a complicated dance.  To paraphrase Whitman (SOM, 51):

Does she contradict herself?
Very well then, she contradicts herself.
(DCTA is large, it contains multitudes).

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