No Good Deed Goes Unpunished In Vermilion Parish Teacher Checks Tossed As Part Of Anti-A+PEL Policy

No good deed goes unpunished, or at least that’s what officials at the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana (A+PEL) found when they tried to send early Christmas presents to teachers in Vermilion Parish Schools this week.

In the wake of catastrophic flooding in August, A+PEL raised over $220,000 for their Disaster Relief Fund to help educators rebuild. Over the past several months, the organization has sent hundreds of checks to teachers (members and non-members alike) and schools in impacted districts, including Vermilion Parish.

Vermilion Parish was one of many areas impacted by flooding in August.

When A+PEL officials found they had disaster relief funds left over, they decided to send a second, surprise check to each educator who had requested assistance. But after they began mailing the checks this week, the organization learned that at least one school in Vermilion Parish – Kaplan Elementary – intercepted them and threw them away. As it turns out, the school’s secretary put the letters in the trash simply because she saw A+PEL’s logo on the envelopes.

A+PEL executive director Keith Courville says this isn’t the first time his group’s communications to Vermilion teachers failed to reach their intended recipients. In fact, when he tried to email Kaplan’s principal about the checks, he discovered that Vermilion Parish Schools blocks messages from A+PEL email accounts.

Screenshot of the bounce-back email Keith Courville received from Vermilion’s email network.

What’s Vermilion’s beef with A+PEL? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Vermilion Parish is one of a handful of school districts in Louisiana with a collective bargaining agreement. In August 1988, the Vermilion Association of Educators – a local affiliate of the Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE) – went on strike, bringing things in the district to a halt for 11 days. The school board eventually caved, agreed to a contract, and ever since LAE has held considerable sway over affairs in the school system.1

A+PEL, on the other hand, was formed nearly 40 years ago when a group of disgruntled LAE members broke away from the union in Bossier Parish. It has since positioned itself as an alternative professional organization for teachers, providing professional development and other supports for educators without any of the messy political entanglements that come with unions. Thus, LAE and their counterparts at the Louisiana Federation of Teachers view A+PEL as competition.

One of many checks A+PEL sent to teachers and schools impacted by flooding.

In any case, the incident at Kaplan Elementary raises two important issues: Why are Vermilion Parish Schools employees trying to filter out A+PEL communications to teachers and why are district policies (whether formal or informal) being used to protect the power of the local teachers unions? The district owes both A+PEL and the Vermilion teachers it tried to help answers to these questions.

  1. N.B.: LAE president Debbie Meaux is from Vermilion Parish and is the former head of the Vermilion Association of Educators. 

Written by Peter Cook

Pete became involved in education reform as a 2002 Teach For America corps member in New Orleans Public Schools and has worked in various capacities at Teach For America, KIPP, TNTP, and the Recovery School District. As a consultant, he developed teacher evaluation systems and served as a strategic advisor to school district leaders in Cleveland, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. He now writes about education policy and politics and lives in New Orleans.


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  1. Quoting from the article you cited re the 1988 strike:,Looking back 25 years, Theriot said, while the strike caused bad blood amongst people, a lot of good came out of it.
    Today, school board employees now have a voice in their working conditions and helping to improve the education of students in Vermilion Parish.
    Theriot said, “This is especially important because of the turmoil caused by all the changes required by the state our parish students always score well in comparison with the other parishes in our area and the state because of the contract, the board and employees work together, helping make our parish a leader in the educational system.”

    • I never said anything pro or con about the merits of VAE or the 1988 strike. All I’m saying is that Vermilion Schools shouldn’t try to censor A+PEL by blocking their email and throwing out mail from A+PEL to their teachers. It’s ridiculous.

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