By Rebecca Gaunt
Jeff Hubbard, president of the Cobb County Association of Educators, had strong words for Cobb school board Chair David Chastain after his attacks on the local teacher association on social media and in an email blast.
Hubbard spoke with the Courier Friday afternoon after the campaign email was sent.
“He’s misrepresenting a new business item that was about LGBTQ adoptions and how they make families, and trying to make it into this nefarious plot to where the devil NEA is trying to change how we call our parents,” Hubbard said. “That was to put in language, if an LGBTQ individual was trying to adopt, and it’s sample language that could be put into a bargaining contract so they could get paternal leave, maternal leave, bereavement leave.”
NEA’s rationale for the item was so that “members need not worry about how a Board of Education/solicitor defines “maternity leave,” “mother” and/or “father”; the language is an inclusive reflection of how LGBTQIA+ members build their families.”
Hubbard continued, “He’s now using it to attack us and attack Dr. Pozniak because she got our endorsement.”
In a Facebook post last week, Chastain wrote, “I think I’ll stick with the teachers’ group which is made up entirely of local leaders. The NEA (the local affiliate is called the CCAE) has a liberal agenda that I DO NOT share.”
In a comment on his post, he added, “My endorsement: 10,000 Georgia Teachers and Growing Stronger!. This is a local Cobb Group unlike the CCAE a part of the national NEA.”
Educators First is the organization that endorsed Chastain in May. It was founded by CEO Tana Page and executive director John Adams, the former deputy superintendent for Cobb County School District.
Hubbard questions the assertion that Educators First has 10,000 members statewide. According to its website, the current annual certified membership is $358. Classified membership is $179 annually.
The membership dues were a bit lower in 2019, he said, but the organization’s 2019 990 filed with the IRS states that the total revenue was $514,731. He believes the total membership is between 1,500 and 1,800 statewide based on those numbers.
The Courier reached out to Page and membership director Dana Henley for clarification on its member enrollment but had not received a response as of publication.
CCAE is the local affiliate of the Georgia Association of Educators, which is affiliated with the NEA. It reports about 1,200 members in Cobb and the state affiliate, GAE, has about 25,000.
“That does not mean we agree with everything NEA does. It does not mean we agree with everything GAE does,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard said every candidate had the opportunity to fill out a questionnaire and meet with the organization’s political action committee.
Chastain responded to Hubbard by email on July 9 and rejected the opportunity to seek CCAE’s endorsement. Chastain linked a copy of that email in his newsletter he sent out Friday.
In the email, he wrote, “One of my core values, as a board member, includes the idea that ‘parents should parent and teachers should teach.’ Understandably, changing the name of mom or dad to birthing parent is a leap too far.” The full email is posted on Chastain’s website.
“And it’s like, okay, we know what happened. He’s gotten something from his church or some right wing thing,” Hubbard said
Hubbard reached out to Chastain right away to explain the proposal’s purpose both through email and a Facebook message. He shared both those communications with the Courier.
According to Hubbard, they agreed to keep their 45-minute phone conversation from that day private, an agreement he says was rendered null Friday when Chastain released the email.
During that July conversation, Hubbard says they discussed issues related to the proposal’s language, such as infertility and adoption.
Hubbard said he was also trying to repair the tense relationship between the Cobb school board and CCAE. The previous CCAE president, Connie Jackson, advocated forcefully for teacher safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, aggravating the board and straining that relationship.
“I explained to him, David, this is what this new business item was about. It’s not about just some wild far-leftwing thing where we’re going to be woke and call everybody birthmothers and non-birthmothers,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard told Chastain that Georgia opposed the motion because they couldn’t reach an agreement on the language.
“I was the one that moved it in Georgia from no position to opposition because as a straight cisgendered adoptive father, I was offended by the language,” Hubbard said. “For 25 years, NEA has done everything we can do to try to make our LGBTQ members truly feel like they have rights, and this NBI [new business item] actually excluded straight families.”
As an adoptive parent, Hubbard said he had concerns about the use of “birthing parent.”
He forwarded an email exchange to the Courier which included Daniel Sobczak, the district 2 director of GAE, and George Kemery of the New Jersey Educators Association. It showed their attempts to compromise, but ultimately, they were unable to come to an agreement and Georgia opposed NBI 63. The proposal died on the floor of the annual NEA meeting in July without being considered.
“We weren’t trying to change what we call people. It was about creating bargaining language for those who didn’t have it in bargaining states,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard also forwarded an email to the Courier that was sent to the Marietta Daily Journal, signed by A.N., Media Coordinator, Team Chastain.
A.N. attached Chastain’s email from July with a heads up that the campaign would be emailing it out to the public the next day. A.N. wrote, “Due to the efforts of Mr. Hubbard to gain ‘ink time’ at the expense of David’s campaign, we thought this email would be very revealing. It had been decided back in July that the letter would remain private unless the local NEA group tried to use the local media to put out a false narrative…and here we are.”
Hubbard said he only agreed to keep the phone call private, not the email. Nonetheless he said he only shared the email with the CCAE PAC committee to “explain his refusal and incorrect information regarding NBI 63.”
As for the accusation that he was seeking ink time, Hubbard said, “The only thing I talked about this week in the press was Centegix.”
Hubbard called the campaign’s email to the MDJ an attempt at a hit piece on him and CCAE, and Pozniak’s campaign.
“He knew that we were probably going to endorse Dr. Pozniak. Because she is an exceptionally strong candidate, he’s used every trick in the book to try and talk bad about her,” Hubbard said.
Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.