Feeling spurned, the Service Employees International Union Local 205 has targeted Metro school board chair Gracie Porter, a former SEIU ally, in a negative mailer that gives her a “failing grade for our kids.”
Alongside an unflattering, distorted photo of District 5 board member Porter is the letter “F” circled in red.
“Don’t vote for a rotten apple,” reads the negative ad, riffing off Porter’s campaign logo, which incorporates an apple. “Don’t vote for Gracie Porter.”
Freda Player, SEIU’s political consultant, told The City Paper the union mailed the negative mailers Saturday. SEIU, which represents the school district’s support staff, hasn’t endorsed any of the District 5 candidates.
Still, Player said SEIU prefers any of the other District 5 candidates — John Haubenreich, Elissa Kim or Erica Lanier — to Porter.
“This does not dampen my spirit at all,” Porter said in response to the attack ad. “All it does is make me want to do more.
“You don’t work in a school district for 34 years and fail students,” she said, referring to her tenure as a principal, teacher and librarian prior to her school board experience. “Especially when you have those that are doctors and attorneys all over. That’s not failing your students.”
SEIU’s attack on the board chair represents a marked shift from six years ago when Porter launched her inaugural run in 2006. In her race against then board member Kay Brooks, SEIU actively assisted Porter’s grassroots and mobilization efforts.
But SEIU has taken exception with Porter on two key decisions during her tenure.
Porter voted with the board in approving Director of Schools Jesse Register’s outsourcing of school custodians in 2010. More recently, Porter declined to intervene with the superintendent’s unilateral move to undo the district’s “memorandum of understanding” policy with SEIU and United Steelworkers, which represents bus drivers.
“We have concerns with the ways she’s leading the school board, particularly as chair,” Player said. “We were hoping and expecting better leadership out of her.”
Recalling the decision to outsource custodians to a company called GCA Services, Porter said the district was faced with laying off 600 custodians.
“We went with the best option that we had at the time with the economy,” Porter said. “I would rather have 600 people working ... than have 600 households without a paycheck.”