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Posted at 04:22 PM ET, 09/19/2011

Teachers’ union vice president ousted in dispute with president Saunders

Seems like it’s been incorporated into the Washington Teachers’ Union by-laws: that the union president and the general vice president shall be at all-out war.

First it was George Parker and VP Nathan Saunders, who disagreed on union strategy for dealing with Michelle Rhee. Saunders contended that Parker wasn’t pushing back hard enough against Rhee initiatives such as IMPACT. The tensions led to Saunders suing Parker (unsuccessfully), and Parker moving to bounce Saunders (temporarily) back to teaching, alleging that he hadn’t been doing his job.

Now Saunders, who unseated Parker last year, is locked in a similarly nasty fight with his vice president, Candi Peterson. Peterson sued the union for breach of contract last month after she was effectively suspended from her vice presidential post. Today, she had her leave of absence from her school social worker post revoked by DCPS at Saunders’ request.

The particulars of the dispute are not completely clear, but Peterson said it started when Saunders spoke abusively to her at a July staff meeting, something that Saunders denies. Saunders, for his part, says that Peterson’s behavior had been erratic and unprofessional.

Saunders and Peterson were running mates (as were Parker and Saunders) in last fall’s election, positioning themselves as staunch critics of Rhee and former Mayor Adrian Fenty. But after the election, Saunders wanted Peterson to tone down some of the posts in her blog, The Washington Teacher. Saunders said he told her they needed to focus on meeting the needs of their members and preparing for significant challenges over the next year, including the likely closing of some schools.

“We have to lead these people,” Saunders said he told her.

Peterson said yesterday that Saunders has started to resemble the man he replaced. “He’s fired seven people (in the union office). I make number eight,” she said. “He’s become George Parker. In fact, far worse.”

He’s basically become a dictator. He’s doing the same thing George did to him.”

Saunders said he tried to work with her, asking her to take courses at the National Labor College to improve her skills, but that the relationship had deteriorated. Peterson said Saunders tried to get her to sign what she called “a political suicide note” forbidding her from talking to the press or blogging.

Her last post on The Washington Teacher, dated August 24, includes a disclaimer she is “not writing in my official capacity as WTU General Vice President, but rather as an announced candidate in the 2013 WTU election.”

By  |  04:22 PM ET, 09/19/2011

 
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