Camille Zombro, widely considered the architect of the San Diego Education Association’s shift towards a more hard-line, isolationist philosophy and a long-respected power broker in local education, has lost her bid for re-election as the teachers union’s vice president.

The result comes just two weeks after Zombro’s key ally, Craig Leedham, was placed on administrative leave. The removal of the two divisive, high-ranking officials comes at a crucial time for negotiations with the San Diego Unified School District.

According to the SDEA website, Zombro lost the election by more than 100 votes. Her challenger, elementary school teacher Lindsay Burningham, received 381 votes to Zombro’s 279. Union President Bill Freeman was unchallenged in the election and remains in his post.


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Burningham said she’s looking forward to working with Freeman.

“I’m really excited to start working with Bill to move the union in a more positive direction,” she said.

Zombro will continue to work for the union under a grant-funded position. Burningham wasn’t sure what capacity Zombro would continue in.

The removal of the two people who are widely considered to have soured relations between the union and the school district comes with San Diego Unified facing an estimated $80 million to $120 million deficit next year. Though those numbers are preliminary and represent a worst-case scenario, Superintendent Bill Kowba has warned that at least 1,000 teachers will likely lose their jobs unless the district can make a deal with its labor unions.

Kowba and the school board have asked the union to negotiate concessions to their pay and benefits, in return for a promise that no teachers will be laid off. So far, the union has refused to sit down and negotiate with the school board.

Former SDEA president Don Crawford said he was “ecstatic” at the news of Burningham’s election. He said Burningham has shown a willingness to reopen relations with the school district and at least talk about forging a solution to the current fiscal crisis with the school board.

“The SDEA went into a period of stagnation under Zombro,” Crawford said. “I think Bill Freeman has faced obstruction from both her and the executive director and now he’ll be able to fully take the reins with his new partner and move the union forwards.”

Zombro was elected president of the union in 2006. During her tenure, the SDEA severed relations with a group representing retired teachers, dropped out of committees it once served on with other unions, canceled regular meetings with district leaders and barred its staff from meeting regularly and informally with district staff.

Former SDEA officials decried that isolationist approach recently and chided Zombro and Leedham for their divisive and often brusque or unprofessional attitude.

Will Carless is an investigative reporter at voiceofsandiego.org currently focused on local education. You can reach him at will.carless@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5670.

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    This article relates to: Education, News, Public Safety

    Written by Will Carless

    Will Carless is the former head of investigations at Voice of San Diego. He currently lives in Montevideo, Uruguay, where he is a freelance foreign correspondent and occasional contributor to VOSD. You can reach him at will.carless.work@gmail.com.

    43 comments
    David Packham
    David Packham subscriber

    Please bear in mind who the *real* victims in this are.......The Children.....Hopefully, the negotiations can resume with a degree of civility and a budget passes that will benefit *The Children*

    Dave92104
    Dave92104

    Please bear in mind who the *real* victims in this are.......The Children.....Hopefully, the negotiations can resume with a degree of civility and a budget passes that will benefit *The Children*

    deBeck
    deBeck

    UNPAID LEAVE? Change the locks right now...count the money, and do whatever necessary to regain the lost control of SDEA. As to YOUR employees, they should be judged on how effective they are. How many charters are now unionized? That is what the grant was for! As to the folks that pay dues to a union and opt out...they gave away the money and have no right to gripe .....BUT THEY CAN VOTE (Too hard to do even by mail?), or even better they can get active (Try an hour a week, it is worth it!) and see first hand how their mandatory dues money is spent! TEACHERS all ....CTA's DUES money is yours too! You gave it to them and they gave it back to you so you could organized charters! Is THAT what you wanted the money to be spent on?

    John de Beck
    John de Beck subscriber

    UNPAID LEAVE? Change the locks right now...count the money, and do whatever necessary to regain the lost control of SDEA. As to YOUR employees, they should be judged on how effective they are. How many charters are now unionized? That is what the grant was for! As to the folks that pay dues to a union and opt out...they gave away the money and have no right to gripe .....BUT THEY CAN VOTE (Too hard to do even by mail?), or even better they can get active (Try an hour a week, it is worth it!) and see first hand how their mandatory dues money is spent! TEACHERS all ....CTA's DUES money is yours too! You gave it to them and they gave it back to you so you could organized charters! Is THAT what you wanted the money to be spent on?

    Frances O'Neill Zimmerman
    Frances O'Neill Zimmerman

    Meanwhile, public school communities are turning themselves inside out to become volunteers and raise private funds to fill in the gaps.

    mlaiuppa
    mlaiuppa subscriber

    Next comes full funding under Prop 98, the most recent of all of the ballot measures voters have passed trying to send the message to our elected officials that education is a PRIORITY for the public, not an afterthought. Education needs to be funded first, not get leftover crumbs. The legislature has been doing end runs around every single measure voters pass. They've warped and twisted the will of the people and here we are. That lottery money? For every $1 the lottery puts in they take $1 away from the general fund so the result is still null. And now it's prop 98. Stop Sacramento from siphoning off money in the budget through interest payments for loans the district wouldn't need except for the deferments. That is WASTED money. Stopping that should be everyone's priority.

    mlaiuppa
    mlaiuppa

    Next comes full funding under Prop 98, the most recent of all of the ballot measures voters have passed trying to send the message to our elected officials that education is a PRIORITY for the public, not an afterthought. Education needs to be funded first, not get leftover crumbs. The legislature has been doing end runs around every single measure voters pass. They've warped and twisted the will of the people and here we are. That lottery money? For every $1 the lottery puts in they take $1 away from the general fund so the result is still null. And now it's prop 98. Stop Sacramento from siphoning off money in the budget through interest payments for loans the district wouldn't need except for the deferments. That is WASTED money. Stopping that should be everyone's priority.

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    Education organizations are pigs. Hogtied by their rules. This needs to change

    mgland
    mgland

    Education organizations are pigs. Hogtied by their rules. This needs to change

    John de Beck
    John de Beck subscriber

    s job for the seflish needs of senior teachers does not build union solidarity..... Times a wastin..... Being in a union is not a choice of only one or none. THERE ARE OTHER TEACHER UNIONS!

    deBeck
    deBeck

    s job for the seflish needs of senior teachers does not build union solidarity..... Times a wastin..... Being in a union is not a choice of only one or none. THERE ARE OTHER TEACHER UNIONS!

    Stuart Morse
    Stuart Morse subscriber

    I guess I am missing your point about the high % of budget dedicated to teacher salaries. What is the alternative other than not having humans teach the students?

    smorse
    smorse

    I guess I am missing your point about the high % of budget dedicated to teacher salaries. What is the alternative other than not having humans teach the students?

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    Interject true competition into the mix and you may realize that also

    mgland
    mgland

    Interject true competition into the mix and you may realize that also

    Stuart Morse
    Stuart Morse subscriber

    Furhter, maybe you are new to San Diego or perhaps have only recently started following issues involving education in San Diego, but the San Diego Unified School district has been tightening its belt for the 6 years. The belt is out of notches to tighten.

    smorse
    smorse

    Furhter, maybe you are new to San Diego or perhaps have only recently started following issues involving education in San Diego, but the San Diego Unified School district has been tightening its belt for the 6 years. The belt is out of notches to tighten.

    Irv
    Irv

    The low voter turn out. Most of the teachers were forced to join this union. Good teachers want to teach and not give moiney to a lost old cause. The good teachers need to focus on local and state over spending on none programs tha take tax monbey away from them and eductaion and less time on unions.

    Irvin krick
    Irvin krick subscriber

    The low voter turn out. Most of the teachers were forced to join this union. Good teachers want to teach and not give moiney to a lost old cause. The good teachers need to focus on local and state over spending on none programs tha take tax monbey away from them and eductaion and less time on unions.

    Gandyson
    Gandyson

    For years the unions and administration have been reaping the benefits of the good times and support from the taxpayers. However the golden ticket has been cashed, the ride is over and the over indulgent spending over. Just like the rest of society it is time to tighten the belt and get real. In the past 10 years the increase in spending of education in San Diego has increased almost 20% in the K-12 grades. I know that my spending habits have changed now it is time for the schools to follow.

    Gordon Anderson
    Gordon Anderson subscriber

    For years the unions and administration have been reaping the benefits of the good times and support from the taxpayers. However the golden ticket has been cashed, the ride is over and the over indulgent spending over. Just like the rest of society it is time to tighten the belt and get real. In the past 10 years the increase in spending of education in San Diego has increased almost 20% in the K-12 grades. I know that my spending habits have changed now it is time for the schools to follow.

    Richard Bagnell
    Richard Bagnell subscriber

    Are we surprised by member apathy towards an organization that treats them like children rather than professionals? It is not hard to figure why only 10% of the members vote.

    RB
    RB

    Are we surprised by member apathy towards an organization that treats them like children rather than professionals? It is not hard to figure why only 10% of the members vote.

    Allen Hemphill
    Allen Hemphill subscribermember

    Those of us on the outside must rely simply on the reporting of this subject, and the low turnout by teachers on a subject so sensitive to future negotiations,is telling.

    Akamai
    Akamai

    Those of us on the outside must rely simply on the reporting of this subject, and the low turnout by teachers on a subject so sensitive to future negotiations,is telling.

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    perhaps now the union will be more inclined to put on their practical cap.

    mgland
    mgland

    perhaps now the union will be more inclined to put on their practical cap.

    Kelly Donivan
    Kelly Donivan subscriber

    Why the low "voter" turnout? Apparently the members of this union didn't have enough interest to even cast a vote.

    Genxer65
    Genxer65

    Why the low "voter" turnout? Apparently the members of this union didn't have enough interest to even cast a vote.

    Paul M Bowers
    Paul M Bowers subscriber

    Best of luck to her in finding those elusive slippers.

    Paul M Bowers
    Paul M Bowers

    Best of luck to her in finding those elusive slippers.

    John Kennett
    John Kennett subscriber

    Camille Zombro has given much to SDEA. She would be the first to tell you that elections like this are what our local teacher's union is all about. No one is appointed or works their way up the ladder. They are placed there by teachers, who, like myself, cared enough to vote. I am sure our new VP will do a fine job and the good work of the Union and the District will move forward. Thanks again Camille and I will continue to look forward to working with you wherever needed.

    JKennett
    JKennett

    Camille Zombro has given much to SDEA. She would be the first to tell you that elections like this are what our local teacher's union is all about. No one is appointed or works their way up the ladder. They are placed there by teachers, who, like myself, cared enough to vote. I am sure our new VP will do a fine job and the good work of the Union and the District will move forward. Thanks again Camille and I will continue to look forward to working with you wherever needed.

    Richard Bagnell
    Richard Bagnell subscriber

    This is great news for the school district, the students, and the parents.

    RB
    RB

    This is great news for the school district, the students, and the parents.

    Tommy Flanagan
    Tommy Flanagan subscriber

    Our members have spoken, and spoken loudly! The only remaining obstacle to reclaiming our union is for CTA and NEA to end funding for Zombro's full-time release skate position to organize charter schools, one that continues to poison and divide our local. I hereby call on CTA and NEA leadership to heed the call of our SDEA members and set us free!

    TommyFlanagan
    TommyFlanagan

    Our members have spoken, and spoken loudly! The only remaining obstacle to reclaiming our union is for CTA and NEA to end funding for Zombro's full-time release skate position to organize charter schools, one that continues to poison and divide our local. I hereby call on CTA and NEA leadership to heed the call of our SDEA members and set us free!

    Lyle Beller
    Lyle Beller subscribermember

    I find it interesting to note that the total votes cast was 734. I know there are a LOT more teachers than that. So where were all those others ? Is the union actually representing all of the rank-and-file teachers? Or are most of them basically satisfied with what they have and just joining the union in case they might do better ?

    frugal
    frugal

    I find it interesting to note that the total votes cast was 734. I know there are a LOT more teachers than that. So where were all those others ? Is the union actually representing all of the rank-and-file teachers? Or are most of them basically satisfied with what they have and just joining the union in case they might do better ?

    Matt Kocik
    Matt Kocik subscriber

    Two, if the union and district were not meeting, then I do not know how basic functions like grievance meetings and joint committees called for in the SDEA contract would be met. Those are contractual requirements and obligations, and there would be a labor relations breakdown if the two sides were not meeting. At minimum this is a deceitful statement when you say that the union has "canceled regular meetings with district leaders and barred its staff from meeting regularly and informally with district staff." That would make the basic function of the union, representing its members vis a vie management near-impossible.

    mattK
    mattK

    Two, if the union and district were not meeting, then I do not know how basic functions like grievance meetings and joint committees called for in the SDEA contract would be met. Those are contractual requirements and obligations, and there would be a labor relations breakdown if the two sides were not meeting. At minimum this is a deceitful statement when you say that the union has "canceled regular meetings with district leaders and barred its staff from meeting regularly and informally with district staff." That would make the basic function of the union, representing its members vis a vie management near-impossible.