The Sweetwater Education Association's endorsement process has come under fire by several candidates running for the Sweetwater Union High School District school board.
The teachers’ union Aug. 11 endorsed candidates Arturo Solis, Adrian Arancibia, Frank Tarantino, Nick Segura and Paula Hall.
But several of the 20-plus candidates claim that the endorsement process was not fair.
Area one candidate Kevin O’Neill said he received an email from SEA president Roberto Rodriguez stating the union already knew who they were going to endorse— before the endorsement interview process began.
‘”The whole thing of interviewing, I think was just a sham,” O’Neill said. “They didn’t have to interview because they already knew who they were going to endorse.”
O’Neill said this practice was not transparent and unethical, and he accused the teachers’ union executive board of hypocrisy.
“What bothers me is that SEA has complained about the manipulations of Dr. (Ed) Brand and the school board and from where I sit their whole interview endorsement process was a play directly from this Sweetwater Dr. Brand board.”
Rodriguez said SEA’s endorsement process isn’t any different from other unions.
“Our process is similar to every other labor union that I know of, which is you to try to find candidates that represent the values and their interests of the members and ... the students as well and the community,” he said.
Arancibia who received the endorsement for area one said the endorsement process was fair.
“I think I got the endorsement because I am active in teachers’ rallies and they saw that I am interested in protecting teachers’ values,” he said.
Chris Shilling, area three candidate said he wasn’t invited for an SEA interview because he said he was told that another candidate was going to receive the endorsement.
“I don’t think it was fair because it wasn’t inclusive to everyone going before the teachers, providing information about their candidacy,” he said.
“They can endorse who they choose but they shouldn’t go on afterwards and say that they thoroughly vetted all candidates when it’s not true.”
Former Sweetwater board president Jim Cartmill said he too did not receive an invitation to be interviewed.
He also said in all his year’s running for the Sweetwater board this was the first time that the interview process took place before the end of the filing period.
Rodriguez said the reason the endorsement process was earlier than usual was because SEA needed their endorsements done soon in order to get their candidates to seek endorsements from the South Bay Democratic Central Committee and to get them to try to receive other organization endorsements.
SEA's announced their endorsed candidates three days after the candidate-filing period closed.
Former board member and current candidate James Cartmill said the whole process wasn’t fair.
“I don’t believe it could be considered fair or transparent if not all the candidates were given an opportunity to be interviewed,” he said.
Cartmill said he doesn’t think being indicted in a pay-for-play scheme had anything to do with him not receiving an interview because his former colleague Bertha Lopez was interviewed.
An SEA committee interviews the candidates then that committee makes a recommendation to SEA’s executive board, then the executive board will discuss and make a recommendation to its rep council and the rep council votes on the final endorsement.
Rodriguez said ultimately the union can do what it wants.
“The union has a right to choose and endorse whatever candidates it wants to endorse, using whatever process they want to use.
Shilling said he supports teachers but if elected will vote for what’s best for the students.
“I am supportive of teachers but I will never be anyone’s puppet.”