Gandolfo to Pinellas teachers: Vote Peluso out
Two years ago, the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association supported Ken Peluso in a close contest for an open seat on the Pinellas County School Board. The union's support was striking, considering the seat was wide open and Peluso's opponent was a retired teacher.
How quickly things change.
This time, Peluso is an incumbent with name recognition and a two-year track record on the School Board. And this time, the teachers union isn't supporting him. The union endorsed Eileen Long, a current Pinellas teacher, for the District 4 seat, which will be decided in the August primary.
Union leaders haven't stopped with the endorsement.
In his latest report to members, Mike Gandolfo, union president, had some harsh words for Peluso's two-year tenure. He said that there could be "little doubt in anyone's mind" that the union's support clinched the 2014 victory for Peluso. He accused him of breaking promises to teachers and not speaking in their defense. Gandolfo cited one incident last year in which a district administrator sent, on the eve of a contract vote, an email that many employees interpreted as threatening. Peluso was silent, Gandolfo said. In the letter, Gandolfo said he wasn't worried about offending Peluso.
"If he was content to leave employees who educate the next generation of Americans to languish in a climate of fear after they supported him, how much worse can it be to have him not like us," Gandolfo wrote.
Peluso, reached Thursday by The Gradebook, said he hadn't seen the letter yet, but was surprised by its message. He noted that less than a year ago, when he filed for re-election, Gandolfo told a reporter that "we still think the world of Ken Peluso." He said he thought he had a good relationship with the union leadership, despite losing the endorsement to Long, whom he described as a "union activist." He also said that he didn't see Corbett's email until after it was sent, but didn't view it as threatening to employees.
"If he has any suggestions or comments, he has my number," Peluso said of Gandolfo.
The union has endorsed candidates in two other races, which weren't mentioned in detail in Gandolfo's report.