November 21, 2011
John Tarka Named Administrator of the Broward Teachers Union
WASHINGTON—The American Federation of Teachers executive council has appointed AFT Vice President John Tarka as administrator of the Broward (Fla.) Teachers Union. The appointment is for six months.
Tarka, a nationally renowned educator and labor leader, retired as president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers Aug. 31. He will hold a press conference and be introduced to the media, teachers, students, parents and the public on Tuesday, Nov. 22, at 11 a.m. at the Broward Teachers Union, 6000 North University Drive, Tamarac, Fla.
Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT, called Tarka "a great educator and leader who ran a successful local union. He will help the union turn the corner by putting in place strong financial programs and safeguards. He will help restore the trust and integrity that is necessary to regain the confidence of the members and the broader community they serve."
Tarka will assume control of the 11,500-member local immediately. The Broward Teachers Union executive board last week requested the local be placed in voluntary trusteeship. The AFT executive council approved the request Friday.
Tarka's career as a teacher, instructional leader and union leader in Pittsburgh spanned 43 years. As president of the Pittsburgh federation, Tarka established himself as someone who worked well with his members and with the community. He expanded opportunities for member participation by establishing grass-roots committees and increasing members' involvement in all union activities, including advocacy for improved teaching and learning environments and increased student achievement. Most recently, he worked with the school district to secure a $40 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for Pittsburgh's "Empowering Effective Teachers Project." The project was the framework for a historic five-year collective bargaining agreement ratified by a margin of more than 2 to 1.
"I am honored to be here with such an outstanding group of teachers and support staff," Tarka said. "I know how hard educators in Broward County work every day to make sure that all children succeed and realize their full potential. Their work is critical, and we must all support them. I know that BTU members are looking forward to even greater success, and we will make sure this local thrives and gets stronger."
Andy Ford, president of the Florida Education Association, also praised Tarka's leadership skills.
"John is a skillful, dynamic and dedicated leader who will bring stability to the BTU during a challenging time," Ford said. "Our only priority is to work toward giving BTU members the union they deserve."
The BTU's request for trusteeship came after the AFT reviewed complaints of financial irregularities at the local and became aware of allegations of improper BTU political contributions to candidates for political committees. The AFT recommended a dozen corrective actions, including hiring Mike Benner to serve as the local's professional financial manager.
The AFT has been committed to investigating what happened, disclosing what it found and recommending appropriate corrective action. Under Tarka's stewardship, the goals now will be to re-establish the union's credibility and integrity, and then give the local back to the members.
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The AFT represents 1.5 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.