The union that represents roughly 12,000 Palm Beach County School District teachers has ousted its executive director, causing anger and fears of chaos among some teachers.
"What's happening now is the destruction of the union," said teacher and union representative Les Kozlow of the Classroom Teachers Association's Board of Directors March 5 vote to remove Interim Executive Director Tony Hernandez.
Hernandez said his at-will contract requires 30 days' notice for him to be removed, so he is still the executive director until Friday April 6. On April 9 he will return to his former position as a labor consultant specializing in professional development and membership recruitment. Hernandez has been the executive director since January of 2011, replacing Helene Samango.
"Obviously I am not pleased with their decision," Hernandez said. "I will continue to work to help teachers in Palm Beach County."
The union did not make any public announcement of Hernandez's ouster after the board of directors held the executive session meeting on March 5. Hernandez said he was not in the executive session and has never been given a reason by the board or union President Debra Wilhelm why he was removed. As an at-will manager, Hernandez said, he does not have any legal recourse to challenge the board's decision.
Wilhelm and several members of the board of directors for the union could not be immediately reached for comment.
Hernandez said the board also instructed him to work from his home for the remainder of his time as executive director until April 6.
"No reason was ever given other than the board decided they want me to work out of my home until the end of the contract," Hernandez said, adding that it has made working more challenging but he is still running the day-to-day operations of the union. He said he hasn't said much to teachers about the situation as he has tried to "keep a low profile."
Kozlow said he was angered by the board's move to oust Hernandez and make him work from home, and even more by the fact that teachers have not been told about it.
"They are in the dark and that's what Debra wants," Kozlow said. He claimed that at a union representatives meeting on Tuesday night he tried to bring up the issue but was blocked by Wilhelm. He and several other teachers walked out of the meeting, he said.
Kozlow last year started a Facebook group called "Unhappy CTA Members" aimed at finding out why some teachers were unhappy with the union.
Hernandez said he expects teachers will be upset by the board ousting him but he hoped teachers kept the union intact and "they can use the democratic process to make whatever changes they feel are needed in the organization."
He said that there is no deputy executive director so there is no official next in line for his job.
"There is a void to be filled," Hernandez said. "Hopefully the organization will get an executive director soon."
Officials at the union office said no meeting date had yet been set to choose a new executive director.