Two weeks ago, DCTA members rejected proposed changes to our union’s bylaws. Going forward, it’s important that DCTA leaders learn from this outcome and appropriately change the manner in which we amend our governing documents. Below are seven recommendations to ensure we make changes in a way that benefits all members, not just a few.
1. We cannot afford to be distracted by controversial bylaws changes when our union is heading into major negotiations that will determine the future of our master contract. DCTA Board members and Reps need to be focused on winning a strong contract for our teachers and students, alike.
2. The proposed bylaws would have dramatically impacted DCTA’s upcoming elections. Going forward, it is important that our leaders understand that it is inappropriate to propose restrictions to our highest offices roughly a month before elections are set to begin. To avoid any conflicts of interest and to ensure that rules aren’t changed at the last minute, any substantial changes to elections procedure should be implemented carefully and at an appropriate time - with consultation and feedback from the Election Committee.
3. Our Bylaws committee is currently made up entirely of DCTA Board members and elected officials. Now that a majority of voting members have rejected these proposals, it’s important that we restructure this committee to better represent our members’ interests. In editing our bylaws, we also need to ensure that we follow our current bylaws. Our bylaws call for a six-member committee with an additional chairperson on the committee, but the previous proposals came from a committee of three plus a chairperson. The committee should consist of teachers from all over the district, teaching all different grade levels, and rank-and-file members.
4. It would be beneficial to host a feedback session or conduct a survey with members. This session would allow us to learn from our members and get new ideas, beyond the committee, of what belongs in our bylaws. The debate at the previous Rep Council brought forth many important viewpoints, and it would help the process if more members could include their views in advance of new proposals.
5. In the future, the Board of Directors and Rep Council need to receive the proposed changes a month in advance, minimum. Both bodies should also have the opportunity to discuss and debate proposals and not be rushed to vote immediately after doing so. We need to remember that Board Members and Reps serve as representatives of their members. This month will allow time for building meetings to be held so that Board Members and Reps can discuss the changes with their members and get feedback. This feedback will help Board Members and Reps vote on their members’ behalf and will strengthen the end product by bringing forward questions and concerns in advance.
6. Votes to the membership should not be sent out over such an inconvenient time of the school year. We need to respect our members, their families, and their travel plans. Votes should be conducted during the working school year, and not over a holiday break.
7. Vague, undefined terms in the bylaws such as "authorized members" need to be defined before a Rep Council with a vote. Members who have never been asked to sit in a different section of Rep Council and excluded from discussion should not be surprised by changes to a Rep Council that have not occurred in years.
With these changes in our practice we could value our members, our leaders, and edit our bylaws without a rush. This type of process would allow us to properly attend to detail and create governing documents that support a democratic union.