California Educator

February 2011

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ate the school calendar, job transfer and reassignment, and leave for association business. In addition, the district unilat- erally targeted first-year teach- ers, refusing to follow the past practice of not charging for the Beginning Teacher Sup- port and Assessment (BTSA) program. “The district’s financial statement clearly indicated their ability to settle,” Cart- wright says. “But only after we organized our membership and large numbers of parents and community supporters to put pressure on the district did they finally capitulate. Their last-hour agreement to a rea- sonable settlement could have come months ago, minus all the frustration and anxiety for our members, our students and their families.” NCETA members and sup- porters organized and imple- mented a variety of advocacy tactics during the bargaining crisis, including several social media strategies (see sidebar). On Jan. 26, a crowd of more than 350 packed a school board meeting, with scores of parents demanding a fair con- tract for the teachers. Then a massive rally and march on Jan. 28 along a busy National City street near a freeway cul- minated in a candlelight vigil with more than 400 partici- pants in front of the school board president’s home. “Our efforts to mobilize our members, our parents and our community supporters were vital to our success,” says Cart- wright, “and we are now in the process of evaluating our or- ganizational capacity to mount a campaign to elect new and more supportive school board members.” BILL GUY FEBRUARY 2011 | 29 Social media for organizers Social media can be a new tool for local association communications and organizing. Recent examples of chapters using social media tactics in bargaining crises and strike situations are Capistrano in April, La Habra in December, and National City in February this year. Here are some tips from these Southern California chapters. Although Capistrano did not use social media strategies initiated by the chapter, relying instead on their existing website and e-mail distribution system, individual members, parents and community members set up their own Facebook and other social media sites to discuss and communicate about crisis issues. Take- away lesson? Chapters and leaders that are used to a greater degree of communications control should understand that in the age of social media, anyone can and will use these channels to express information and opinions. For two perspectives on the uses of social media, see the videos “Social Networking in Plain English” and “Socialnomics: Social Media Revolution 2” on YouTube. Neither La Habra nor National City had functioning chapter websites going into their bargaining crises. To facilitate immediate internal crisis communications, each created Ning sites (, offering quick and easy setup with a variety of features for modest fees. Other possibilities are and The two chapters also created Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, both to enhance internal communications and to offer parents, community supporters and fellow union members the opportunity to share information, content and support. The Facebook pages quickly filled with expressions of resolve and encouragement, information items about rapidly changing events, and historical records including photos and video. The 140-character “tweet” limit on Twitter makes this medium ideal for transmitting brief snippets of information — rally or meeting time and place reminders, bargaining progress updates — that followers can access through their computers or as text messages sent to their cell phones. The chapters made sure to inform media covering the crises about the ability to follow events through the social media outlets, with many joining immediately to stay current. Be sure you have the organizational capacity for the immediacy required by social media. Content on social media must be updated frequently. For Facebook, you might get by with three or four new postings per week, but a Twitter feed needs daily monitoring and to be “fed” with updates at least three or four times per day. Once a crisis puts multiple demands on a chapter president, bargaining chair and other leaders, they shouldn’t be expected to keep the social media tactics going too. Recruit a member already engaged with social media for personal communications to take that role for the local chapter. You can check out CTA’s presence on Facebook — californiateachersassociation — and on Twitter @CATeachersAssoc. Other resources include: Visit for a Facebook tutorial and for advice on best Facebook practices. Visit for Larry Ferlazzo’s list of Twitter resources and to see a video on Twitter basics for teachers at Jason Renshaw’s blog. WWW Go to media-resources to find direct links to these resources.

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