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Teachers want Rector ousted as GFT president

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by Michele Catahay

Guam - Former senator Matt Rector is back in the headlines, this time coming under fire from the very organization he serves as president.  Several teachers at Agana Heights Elementary School are questioning the conduct of the current Guam Federation of Teachers president.

According to Agana Heights Elementary School Steward Carol Somerfleck, there are legitimate concerns raised by members including how ongoing issues are being addressed, how elections and amendments to the constitution are conducted, when elections are next to be conducted and how union funds are being spent - all questions that were left unanswered.

"The union serves a very good purpose," said Somerfleck.  "When it started, it had a mission and its mission was to serve its members."  Rector has been president for nearly six years now, and since then Somerfleck says major changes to the union constitution have been made without members knowing of them. She's frustrated and feels Rector should be removed, saying, "I look to the Executive Committee to take that action and yes, he absolutely should be removed from office." 

Rector not only serves as president of the union, but also serves as the president of the executive committee. Somerfleck says the lack of checks and balances allows Rector to have full control over everything. She further questions whether Rector even pays dues and whether he's eligible to sit as the president. In fact, she's not even sure why elections haven't been held in recent years.

She told KUAM News, "I haven't seen anything that talks about an election. What happened to where we the members never had a chance to decide if he we agreed to the amendments that were made in the constitution to make the changes that he's done."

Somerfleck says she has become suspect that so many things are happening behind closed doors.

As for Lisa Villanueva, who is one of the thirty union members working as a teacher at Agana Heights Elementary, she was shocked to hear that if someone opts to get out of the union, he or she would need to pay fees. She said she was never told about these fees.  This was one issue brought up during a recent meeting with rector.

She says in that meeting, Rector acted unprofessionally, saying, "Well, he says 'Who are you?', and he was very arrogant. He goes to me, 'I don't know who you are. Why are you just standing there? You're just another person with a blue uniform,'" she recalled.

Rector meanwhile issued an apology letter recently, admitting that tempers flared.  He said, "Nobody's perfect. I always try to do the best I can do and that's to do the right thing. And sometimes we're not perfect and sometimes when people say mean things to you, you react as they should be. We haven't gotten our furlough checks. There are other issues out there that are outstanding."

As for his role as president, Rector said, "We're a free and democratic trade union.  Anybody can run for president - any of our members. If our members decide that someone else should be president, they should elect them."

Somerfleck says she wanted the issue to come out in hopes other schools with similar issues will voice their concerns with Rector, too.

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