The recent flap regarding Wilma Wittman's public endorsement of a legal defense for Orange Unified School District board members requires some clarification. News stories have emphasized teacher concerns that they might be singled out for retaliation if they do not contribute, and Wittman has been quoted as saying that the accused members have been her friends for many years, "and you stay with your friends when they are in trouble." She says that she was acting as a private person in supporting them.
Wittman has been the chief negotiating officer in salary matters, representing district teachers for more than two decades. In addition, she has been a chief delegate to both state and national professional teacher organizations. In Southern California, her name has been the respected authority on what her constituency, the classroom teachers, must have to get their jobs done.
It is a matter of ethics that is so distressing here. Wittman has every right to support whom she chooses, but her tack in this instance casts a cloud over her ability to separate the interests of private friendship and professional responsibility.
Orange teachers are not worried about "reprisals." They are wondering how much better their students would have fared without the alleged theft of those millions of dollars. And they are troubled that the educator they trusted most has publicly made her camp with the accused.