The Coast News Group
The Carlsbad Unified School District is investigating a teachers union president and school district employee for potential campaign violations. Photo by Steve Puterski
The Carlsbad Unified School District is investigating a teachers union president for potential campaign violations. Photo by Steve Puterski
Carlsbad Cities News Region

Carlsbad teachers union president accused of campaign violations

CARLSBAD — A letter authored by a Carlsbad teachers’ union president and hand-delivered to educators’ work inboxes is being investigated by school district officials for potential campaign violations.

Rachel Merino-Ott, president of the Carlsbad Unified Teachers Association (CUTA) and a teacher at Sage Creek High School, delivered the letter one day before Rick Grove, assistant superintendent of Carlsbad Unified School District, issued a warning to all employees about election policies and behavior.

Merino-Ott’s letter targets two Carlsbad Unified school board candidates — Scott Davison and Sharon McKeeman, founder of Let Them Breathe — as two individuals allegedly intent on union busting and dismantling public education.

But using district resources for election-related activities and materials violates state education and government codes, along with the school district’s policies.

“I am disappointed that CUTA felt the need to falsely attack my campaign, particularly by violating state laws against on-campus campaign activities,” Davison said. “The letter reveals what I have always known — that many teachers disagree with the overtly political activities of CUTA and the (California Teachers Association), where my opponent is employed. Unions would be better off focusing on their core mission of working for fair wages and benefits for their members instead of attacking parents who want what is best for their kids.”

Merino-Ott’s letter also claims “professional organizations funded by wealthy backers,” such as the Freedom Foundation, are “committed to breaking unions.” The foundation, Merino-Ott said, advises teachers to pay for liability insurance through an alternative teachers union with political ties to groups “working to actively dismantle public schools.”

The California Teachers Association (CTA) has donated at least $15,000 to two candidates opposing Davison and McKeeman: Incumbent Trustee Kathy Rallings of Area 5 ($7,200), and Michelle Ward, running against McKeeman in Area 4 ($8,000).

Rallings is also employed by the CTA as a health benefits specialist, according to her LinkedIn bio.

Merino-Ott did not respond to a message from The Coast News seeking comment.

“To the degree that letter distributed in our mailboxes, that is a violation of our policies,” said Assistant Superintendent Rick Grove. “The sentence calling out Davison and McKeeman is not allowed. This type of action usually results in a written warning.”

The letter is also a call to action after sources said an unknown number of district teachers left the Carlsbad Unified Teachers Association. The letter begins with “misconceptions that need clarification” about CUTA’s role and political activities, which sources believe is in response to a previous letter voicing concerns with the local teachers union.

In the letter, Merino-Ott said a “larger percentage” of the CUTA dues are paid to the largest state and national teachers’ unions — California Teachers Association and National Education Association.

According to Merino-Ott’s letter, working with both entities allows the statewide organization to access to a larger network, leadership training, negotiations, bargaining, budget documents and more.

For teachers not aligned with CTA’s political actions, Merino-Ott writes they can choose not to send a portion of their dues to the CTA’s Better Citizenship Committee, the political action arm that provides funding for local affiliates.

As for the national union, there is no opt out. According to Merino-Ott, only 18% of an employee’s total contribution goes to NEA, which gives teachers a collective voice and “seat at the table.”

3 comments

Roy Nedrow September 20, 2022 at 9:04 am

I’m delighted that the Carlsbad Teacher’s Union has violated state election law and placed its
illegal campaign literature into teachers mailboxes. If they hadn’t done so, I might not have been
able to identify the anti-union candidates for the school board.

Now that the teacher’s union has identified the anti-union candidates, I can vote for them.

Addie September 20, 2022 at 6:47 am

Concerned parent makes an excellent point. However, I might add that it is not only Steve who has clearly become biased over the past few years. The Coast News in its entirety has a clear R agenda that is obvious to anyone who follows local events and politics. Glad to see people starting to push back on this Coast “Fake” News.

concerned parent September 17, 2022 at 3:51 pm

Everyone should see for themselves the types of wacky things Scott Davison says at school board meetings. To Mr. Puterski: just taking Mr. Davison’s words as fact is a huge mistake. The way this article has represented what happened is factually incorrect. How did you find out about this? The bias in your reporting over the past few years is very obvious.

In addition, Davison often quotes “experts” by saying “the research shows…,” by debunked sources. He is part of that small but but obnoxiously loud group that wanted the district to defy the laws set by the state of California health experts regarding school closures and masks. Just his attitude toward the school district alone implies he is not interested in positive relationships with labor groups and district staff. He clearly does not support the very teachers that teach his son. The “union” is practically the entire school distict faculty. Hopefully, the community at large is wise to the negative board candidates and pick the right people for the job. Otherwise, the Carlsbad Unified School District is in big trouble in the near future!

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