Fresno High teacher edges incumbent to win union presidency

The Fresno BeeApril 28, 2014 

Fresno Teachers Association President Eva Ruiz won't serve a second term after Fresno High School math teacher Tish Rice edged her out for the top spot during the union's leadership elections.

Rice picked up just over 50% of the votes Friday and will serve a two-year term when she takes over for Ruiz on July 1. Ruiz won about 45% of the votes, while a third candidate, Olga Valle-Quevedo, got slightly more than 1%.

Rice and three other candidates who won seats -- Adam Ebrahim, Debbie Henell and Teri Reichert -- campaigned together under the slogan "a united voice for teachers," a motto Rice says she plans to stick by when she assumes office.

"We feel like the teacher voice isn't being heard," she said. "With members paying over $100 a month, we feel they need a strong union to support them."

Teachers are "being dictated to instead of being brought in" to the district's decision-making process, she said. She's worried they feel excluded and disillusioned.

"I'd like to see a more collaborative effort on the part of the district and I hope to achieve that during the time I'm in office," she said.

Ruiz said she was disappointed by the outcome but also concerned about the voter turnout. Only 863 members cast ballots, or about 25% of the union's 3,500 members.

"I'm sad that I did not succeed in winning a second term, but ultimately our membership votes that in," she said.

Ruiz has served as president since July 2012, when she defeated Muir Elementary teacher Mai Summer Vue in a runoff. Before stepping into the role, she worked as a kindergarten teacher at Sunset Elementary.

She said she plans to go back to Sunset barring a challenge to the election results, which is allowed up to 10 days after ballots are counted. She said she doesn't have a plan to challenge, but is reviewing the results.

More: Click here for a link to Tish Rice's profile page, including a video clip of her speaking about Common Core to the Fresno Unified board.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6412, or @hannahfurfaro on Twitter.

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