Caucus of Today’s Teachers DCTA Candidate Questionnaire & Responses

We sent seven questions to every DCTA member running for executive office and Board of Directors. Below are the responses we received. We are disappointed that some candidates chose to ignore questions about their leadership from a group of DCTA members. We hope this information provides insight into the candidates seeking DCTA offices.

Presidential Candidates

Tiffany Choi
East High School (88.4% Strike Participation)

1. When and where was your most recent work with students? Where do you currently work in DPS? I teach French at East High School. I have been at East for 5 years and have been a certified teachers for 7.5 years. My first position was at Montbello High School while it was being phased out of existence in 2011.

2. Why are you interested in running for a DCTA office? I’m interested in running for DCTA President because I believe that as a union, we have the opportunity to fight district policies that are harmful to our students and our profession. The corporate takeover in Denver has eroded our public schools and demoralized the teachers; however, through the incredible solidarity between the boots on the ground members and the negotiators at the table such as Rob Gould, we won the strike and were able to start this fight. Let’s continue to actively fight against privatization in our district. It’s time to re-engage our teachers to take back the power of the community, to change the local political scene at the board level, to fight for more equitable state education funding, and to create a union that embodies the ideals of justice and democracy.

3. Explain one issue within Denver Public Schools that you plan to address once elected to DCTA office. As a Northeast director, I advocated for DCTA to join the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) in 2018 and have been working all year with the IAF and fellow teachers to build power among our membership and to partner with community organizations. I want to continue this work to stop harmful practices such as school closure and co-location that disproportionately impact communities of color in our Denver neighborhoods.

4. There are many improvements that can be made within DCTA. What are some of your top priorities? My top improvements include:

  1. Train teachers as organizers and start building a grassroots campaign around school board candidates.
  2. Put together committees and initiatives to end school closure and colocation.
  3. Apply for grants to start implementing community schools in Denver.
  4. Create a recruitment/training/mentorship program for teachers of color
  5. Rework the structure of the Board of Directors to make sure SSPs are represented.
  6. Continue hosting house meetings, and community forums to cocreate the platform for our next contract negotiations.

5. Union members want transparent, frequent communication from their board of directors. What is your plan to make this a reality? Besides providing clear and consistent messaging through emails and social media, I plan to train all board members on community organizing and relationship building with the reps. I will take time at the beginning of every board meeting to make sure that board members have spoken with or met with their building reps on a regular basis. I believe that direct communication (in person or phone) is the most effective way to engage with people. Therefore, I will prioritize this type communication with our members and particularly coming from the board of directors.

6. Considering our recent strike and the national wave of education activism of which we are a part, what is your vision for how and why educators should be activists in their communities? I believe teachers and parents are natural allies when it comes to fighting for social justice. Teachers need to be trained on how to engage with parents and how to hold conversations that build power with the surrounding community. In this way, teachers, parents, and community members can co-create initiatives and fight together in solidarity.

7. How do you define equity and social justice, and what do they mean to you? Social justice work means identifying systems of oppression within our institutions and finding strategies to combat systemic unfairness. For example, realizing that the majority of images and stories told in this society is Eurocentric, I must intentionally choose curriculum, images, stories and art that reflect a different perspective. In French class, I am able to show music and highlight French speaking countries around the world besides European countries. I can also be more inclusive of diverse students by finding pictures on my slide shows that represent a variety of races and ethnicities, rather than choosing the first picture on google. Equity, similarly is an ideal in which we strive not treat people the same, but rather give people what they need, when they need it so that all people have equal opportunities for success. For example, at East High School, we have several students coming from the Far Northeast that must take a public bus over 1.5 hours each way. In my class, students do a reading activity for credit at the beginning of 1st period every day, but knowing that some students struggle to get to class on time because of transportation, I allow students to make up this reading activity after school or at tutorial. I acknowledging that students have different needs depending on their experiences, and therefore strive to accomodate the needs of students in order to provide an opportunity for success.

Henry Roman
Released From Classroom (N/A Strike Participation)

We sent Henry Roman our questions and did not receive any response back.

North west sector directors

Deven lyon
beach court elementary (81.8% strike participation)

1. When and where was your most recent work with students? Where do you currently work in DPS? I am currently a personalized learning coach and gifted & talented itinerant for DPS. I work .75 at Beach Court Elementary, and .25 at Summit Academy Middle School.

2. Why are you interested in running for a DCTA office? I believe in the power of unions, and I am interested in being an ear and a voice for the most important job in society. I was fortunate enough to be a part of strong unions in Los Angeles and Long Beach. I have experienced the impact that they make on the profession. I want to grow the power of the union and member knowledge about what the union accomplishes. DPS should be a district that teachers seek out as a great place to work.

3. Explain one issue within Denver Public Schools that you plan to address once elected to DCTA office. My biggest concern is the privatization of education within DPS. Focusing on a portfolio model has left entire communities behind. It inherently devalues neighborhood schools. DPS needs to reinvest in neighborhood schools, regardless of zip code, and value the culture and history in our Denver neighborhoods.

4. There are many improvements that can be made within DCTA. What are some of your top priorities? Too many teachers and SSPs view DCTA as “the union” as opposed to “our union”. For a union to have power for systemic change, it requires collective ownership by those represented. In order to create a sense of ownership, we need to do 3 things. First, we need a system that values transparency. This includes both transparency about decision making within the union, and financial transparency. Second, we need to educate members of the bargaining unit about what a union is and what a union does. Collective power requires members to be educated about how a union works. Finally, we need to use the power of our collective voices to stand up for communities of color, which DPS continues to undervalue. This means creating a more social justice-oriented union and focusing our power to demand change.

5. Union members want transparent, frequent communication from their board of directors. What is your plan to make this a reality? As a board, I believe we need to not only make information available, but make a concerted effort to get that information out to union members. In order to make that happen, we can start in a few places. We need to make agendas and board meeting minutes accessible from the DCTA webpage and sent to all members. Additionally, we need to use our places of communication to not only tell our members what has already occurred, but give our members critical information about things that impact any union member, such as Weingarten Rights or the grievance process. Additionally, we need financial transparency surrounding how union dues are spent. Again, my plan is to publicly display this information on the website, and send yearly updates directly to members.

6. Considering our recent strike and the national wave of education activism of which we are a part, what is your vision for how and why educators should be activists in their communities? Education is at its heart a social justice-oriented career. Our job as social justice educators is two-fold. First, we must help dismantle systemic oppressive structures by educating ourselves on where they are built into our profession, intentionally disrupting and refusing to be a participant in those structures. For example, if we have curriculum that is Eurocentric, we must create curriculum in which our students can see themselves. The second change comes in our students. We must teach our students to be critical thinkers and support them in navigating and dismantling the oppressive systems that exist in society. By giving our students the tools to fight back against racism, classism, sexism, and heteropatriarchy, we are intentionally creating a socialjustice-oriented society that strives for change.

7. How do you define equity and social justice, and what do they mean to you? Equity means giving everyone a fair shot, regardless of societal structures that may hinder access to opportunity, which requires intentionally giving additional support and access to groups of people who have historically had less support and access. Social justice is the action of intentionally aiming to dismantle the systemic structures connected to racism, sexism, classism, and heteropatriarchy. I believe strongly in the principles of equity and social justice. It is why I attended graduate school at the University of Southern California, where I had the opportunity to study the impact of social justice on equity in education in depth. Social justice is the reason that I am an educator. This career offers essential touch points to dismantle oppressive structures within our society and provide our students with the tools to do the same.

strike participation percentages reported from chalkbeat.org

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