October 8, 2008
Let’s Set the Record Straight Mr. Bennett
In yesterday’s Letters to the Editor of the Saipan Tribune, Ambrose Bennett misquotes me and publicly misinterprets the intentions of The Association of Commonwealth Teachers.
I absolutely did not inform Mr. Bennett that I was working with the board and the governor to create an “exclusive bargaining representative of teachers within PSS.” There are no “back room” deals as Mr. Bennett alludes to. Teachers want a voice on the Board of Education, and are entitled to one under the CNMI Constitution. I simply stated ACT was working with the Governor’s Office and Board of Education to determine the process this administration would use in the appointment of a Teacher’s Representative.
Below you will find the full text of the e-mail sent to Mr. Bennett. (Dated Oct. 4, 2008 with cc copies to all members of the Association of Commonwealth Teachers and duly posted on our website www.cnmiactnow.com under the link Communication from President to Membership.)
We trust interested members of the community will be able to read the correspondence and interpret for themselves whether or not Mr. Bennett’s accusations hold any merit.
Email correspondence from Betty Miller, ACT President to Ambrose Bennett Oct. 4, 2008
“I'm sorry Ambrose,
With all due respect, I strongly disagree with your statement "This is not about ACT and you are only trying to see how ACT can keep control which is not fair to all teachers. This has been the main inhibitor to teachers and my efforts to get all teachers to the bargaining table."
Your lack of attendance at BOE meetings and ACT meetings make it impossible for you to have a clue as to how our organization currently runs or what we do. The Association of Commonwealth Teachers invites all interested members of the community to attend our meetings and share their perspectives prior to voting. The election for our officers was open to all teachers in the CNMI, regardless of membership in the organization, and garnered 290 votes. Our email list includes many who have chosen not to join the Association, but would like to remain informed and involved. Our website and blog are opened to all members of the public. We have not charged a membership fee for two years, because we have no need to collect money in order to listen to and speak on behalf of teachers. The matters we take to the BOE are those that have been brought to the attention of ACT, we do not check for membership to determine whether or not we will speak on behalf of this teacher. We do not now, nor will we ever, be so arrogant as to profess we speak for all teachers. The decisions that we make and the actions that we take are a reflection of those who have taken time to express a concern or opinion.
While I have patiently and respectfully bit my tongue as you publicly degrade this Association, I will not allow you to sabotage our hard work toward reaching an amicable agreement with PSS/BOE/GOV as to what it will take for this administration to appoint a teacher's rep. to the Board of Education. The procedure you are proposing is from a former administration, which our current Governor has already stated he does not intend to follow. Why put all teachers through this process with no guarantee that it will yield a Teacher Representative to the Board of Education? Again, with all due respect, as much as we appreciate your input as to the "red letter of the law" you are not the one making the final decision. We will wait for a procedure from those in power to make the appointment.
We have stated time and again that we will happily participate in any required election for a Teacher Rep. to the Board of Education. In keeping with our bylaws we will endorse our president as a candidate. Yet, when an election was organized by independent teachers, no one came forward. If you felt so strongly you were the best candidate, why did you not step forward at that time? An election would have been held, the winner duly announced, and we wouldn't be facing the challenges we are now. We asked for the appointment of our President because no one else came forward and we wanted teachers to have a voice on the BOE. It was never our intention to circumvent any required procedure or process. It is a matter of public record we have been asking for guidance on the required process since June, 2007, well in advance of the expiration of your term. We did this because we wanted to ensure a seamless transition between the end of your term and beginning of the next. So let us be clear, The Association of Commonwealth Teachers bears no responsibility for the current lack of a teacher representative. As a matter of fact, a review of the records will show we have inquired of the BOE/GOV repeatedly as to the process needed for an appointment to be garnered.
Once a procedure has been agreed upon by those with the authority to make an appointment, I guarantee you we will wholeheartedly participate, and of course will appreciate any assistance you are willing to provide. In addition, should another attempt at an election be necessary we encourage you or any other interested teacher to run.