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labor Teachers Walkout Fallout: Impeachment Effort Underway Against OEA Leaders

OEA president, vice president target of some after walkout. The relative lack of legislative action during the walkout left teachers wondering what had been accomplished before the walkout was declared over.

Some teachers are working to oust two high-ranking Oklahoma Education Association leaders over their strategic handling of the Oklahoma teacher walkout, which ended two weeks ago.

Teachers began to circulate a petition through social media Friday to initiate impeachment proceedings against OEA President Alicia Priest and Vice President Katherine Bishop. The post circulated a petition that needs the signatures of 15 percent of OEA delegates, according to the group’s bylaws. An OEA spokesman refused to provide a copy of the bylaws, saying it was not a public document, but a copy was provided to the Tulsa World by an OEA member.

Another OEA member said 15 percent means about 40 signatures. If the threshold is reached, it would trigger impeachment proceedings before the OEA Review Board, which is made up of retired members, according to a member.

The impeachment effort is underway while the OEA delegates assembly takes place Friday and Saturday in Norman.

The post on the Oklahoma Teacher Walkout Facebook page cites grievances that have been aired by teachers during and in the wake of the walkout: a lack of strategy and making decisions without properly following procedure or consulting members.

“It was nonfeasance for calling a state-wide walkout without having a lobbying strategy for thousands of OEA members to lobby effectively before the legislators,” the post says. “No lobbying materials were prepared, produced or communicated to members by OEA Officers. No strategy was developed or communicated to measure progress during the OEA walkout.”

It continued to say: “While the President claimed during press conferences that OEA members were polled to support ending the walk-out, the poll did not include all members of OEA, and the poll was poorly written and did not follow standards for soliciting accurate information from survey participants.”

On the ninth day of the walkout, Priest announced that Oklahoma’s largest teachers union was calling for an end to the teacher walkout, saying efforts to negotiate with the Oklahoma Legislature for more education funding had reached an impasse.

The announcement drew immediate backlash on social media.

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Most of what OEA called a “victory” had actually passed before the statewide walkout began April 2. That includes an across-the-board teacher pay raise promised to be $6,100 on average.

The relative lack of legislative action during the walkout left teachers wondering what had been accomplished before the walkout was declared over.

Priest said OEA member surveys showed that 70 percent of members doubted that continued efforts would enact needed legislative change. But some OEA members decried that claim as bunk, saying they had never received such a survey, and some even canceled their membership in protest.

Other local education leaders, including those at the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association, the local OEA affiliate, defended the OEA.

Patti Ferguson-Palmer, president of the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association, declined to comment.

Twitter: @samhardiman

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