A New Direction?
USEP Gets New Leadership
Kenny Blankenship Loses a Lusterless Election to Don Peace
Blankenship is out. After a single term marked by a remarkably adversarial relationship with district leaders, Kenny Blankenship finds himself on the way back to the classroom.
Blankenship’s term wasn’t easy. From the very start, he faced a pugilistic district superintendent, Kurt Browning, who had already made it crystal clear that he was no fan of cooperation with the teachers union on any issues of consequence.
Lynne Webb, Blankenship’s predecessor, had an equally contentious relationship with Browning. She became very familiar with the antagonistic posture that Kurt Browning assumed his first day in office. She happened to retire just before things between the district and the union really started to rapidly deteriorate. While Peace, in campaign interviews, seemed to allude to Blankenship’s demeanor as a possible contributor to the extremely contentious dynamic that ultimately saturated his relationship with Kurt Browning, it is clear to all who have witnessed the decline in district-union relations that Kurt Browning’s myopic vision and dictatorial manner are the two biggest factors.
Three-fourths of the union’s members didn’t even cast a ballot in the election. An online platform that assigned each member a “unique seven-digit voter ID number” was used for voting, and only a paltry quarter of the membership bothered to log on and vote. Of those who did, 53% opted for a change in leadership.
That means that just 13.5% of union members made the decision to oust Blankenship and install Peace. The election wasn’t exactly a hallmark of member involvement.
Don Peace has a big job ahead of him. If he’s going to save USEP, he is going to have to mobilize a membership that is all but resigned to the annihilation of organized labor in education by corporatizing shysters. The anti-public education Florida legislature is hurriedly orchestrating its next salvo against teachers unions as I write this post. The bill, which is designed to make decertifying teachers unions easier than ever, will likely spell the end of USEP.
Mr. Peace may well have taken the helm of a ship on its way to the bottom.