Two substitute teachers joined the field in part over anger at Duffy for limiting their seniority protections. One of them, Leonard Segal, strayed somewhat from union dogma by asserting that the best minds, inside and outside the union, should come together to address problems.
Art teacher David Garcia called for internal accountability and belt-tightening, including a reduction in dues for non-tenured teachers — who lack full union protection — and a reduction in salaries for union officers. Duffy makes $99,385 per year.
Duffy hasn't endorsed a successor but has let Washington preside at recent press conferences and rallies, raising her profile inside and outside the union. Duffy also has barred the media from attending candidate forums — a ban not always enforced — and has refused to supply contact information for candidates to reporters, leaving only Washington easily accessible.
Internally, the process is more evenhanded, with the union paying for a one-time distribution of fliers, if candidates provide them, and publishing candidate statements online and in the union newspaper. Candidate videos also are online, including one from Franklin High instructional coach Ronald B. Conover, who did not attend three official forums.
Marshall High teacher Teri Klass, who is not a candidate, said she formerly paid little attention to union politics, trusting her representatives as she focused on teaching. She experienced an eye-opener last year, she said, when the union's House of Representatives resisted for months allowing teachers to compete with charter schools for control of struggling and new campuses. She said many of the activists who dominate the House are ideologically unyielding and out of touch.
Just as crucially, she said, the public is beginning to see the teachers union in a similar light. Klass, a member of NewTLA, recently won election to the House.
The candidates for president haven't given up on the old UTLA. They say that too much is at stake, for teachers and for students.
"We're going to have to redefine us in the media," said Washington, reflecting the views of other candidates. "Right now we're the big, greedy teachers.... We are not the villains in education; we are the saviors."