Amid months-long negotiations concerning teacher pay and health-care costs, which have led to whispers of a strike and a 1,000-person rally held outside the district office last month, the FTA and top district officials have gone head-to-head on social media.
On Tuesday, the FTA’s Twitter account posted to its nearly 300 followers that FUSD has “consistently tried to confuse the public by flooding them with irrelevant data” and has “ruled over educators with an iron fist.”
Earlier this month, the FTA took to Twitter to accuse interim superintendent Bob Nelson of spreading misinformation about bargaining sessions. When another Twitter user called Nelson “spineless,” he shot back.
“On the contrary, it takes a lot of spine to disagree with your largest labor union publicly when you’re an interim. Just sayin’,” he said in a Tweet that was partly addressed to the FTA.
Last week, when Nelson tweeted about a partnership with GO Public Schools Fresno – a new nonprofit focused on equality in education – the FTA re-tweeted it, saying, “Wake up FUSD. We need our own talent.”
Fresno Unified spokesman Miguel Arias chimed in, showing support for the nonprofit. “I hope it informs and engages folks that help us continue improving student achievement,” Arias said in a tweet. “A goal, I am sure FTA supports. Right?”
Then, school board president Brooke Ashjian got involved, replying to that by calling Arias “the Minister of Propaganda.” Ashjian tweeted the FTA, saying that Arias “does not speak for the district” despite his title.
As of now, both the FTA and FUSD have made their “last, best and final” offers in negotiations, and an FTA representative on Tuesday said the two organizations are approaching impasse, which means a mediator will get involved. In 2015, the Public Employment Relations Board stepped in to mediate negotiations after the two groups held 12 collective bargaining sessions but could not come to an agreement.
Ashjian has used Twitter to both support and condemn FTA.
In May, he posted to point out that teachers had been given raises in recent years, and said that the district has bettered health insurance.
“And you are talking ‘strike’??” he said to one Twitter user last month. “Congress couldn’t fix healthcare, but Fresno Unified did.”
In a different Tweet, Ashjian borrowed a line from another avid Twitter user: President Donald Trump.
“With great partners like FTA, we will make Fresno Unified great again!” he posted on May 27.