Alabama’s teachers union is in crisis mode and on the brink of total collapse, according to the group’s retired president.
Paul Hubbert led the Alabama Education Association (AEA) as executive secretary for over 40 years before retiring due to ill health in 2011, and turned the group into perhaps the most powerful lobby in the state. Since his departure, he claims the union has enabled its own ruin by alienating lawmakers, shedding members, and even by gambling member dues in the stock market.
In his letter, which was sent to the AEA’s board of directors on Wednesday, he says the organization risks total implosion if it does not immediately reform, and directly attacks his successor as executive secretary.
“AEA, directed by its Board of Directors and contractual managers, is in a crisis of leadership that threatens the future of the organization. By all measures, AEA is at a critical point in its history,” says Hubbert in his letter.
The AEA’s decline has been a combination of both internal and external factors, said Hubbert. While the external factor of Republican control of Alabama’s legislature may do more to explain the AEA’s decline, Hubbert’s claims regarding the group’s internal dysfunction are far more spectacular. Hubbert accuses the AEA of trying to cope with budgetary shortfalls by gambling its reserve funds in the stock market, pursuing a strategy so incredibly risky that they had to change investment managers after Merrill Lynch refused to continue servicing them.
Hubbert heaps blame on his successor, Henry Mabry, for this development and many others, portraying him as a secluded tyrant incapable of winning others’ support.
“The style, personality and performance of the Executive Secretary have created intolerable friction between AEA and members of both parties in the Legislature with resultant loss of respect, standing and influence,” says Hubbert. Some criticisms of Mabry are general, such as a complaint about his alleged propensity for cutting internal staff while hiring contract work from external consultants and friends. Occasionally, though, the letter veers into remarkably specific criticisms of Mabry’s conduct.
“The Executive Secretary’s office is dark, cluttered, uninviting and essentially not usable except for the desk of the Executive Secretary,” Hubbert says at one point. At another, he says “an atmosphere of intimidation and mistrust” has emerged, describing a low-level staffer who would only speak to him in a whisper to avoid being heard making statements that could possible be interpreted as questioning Mabry’s judgment. Another outside observer is said to have described the AEA as a “twilight zone.”
Hubbert has not called for Mabry to resign, despite the letter’s tone, but he warns that without major reforms the union could simply disintegrate as a major concern in Alabama politics.
“No organization, no matter how strong, can weather both internal and external threats at the same time,” says Hubbert.
The AEA did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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