Joe Nuñez was born in Santa Maria, grew up in Guadalupe and taught at Righetti High School for more than 20 years.
“I loved teaching,” Nuñez said.
So much so, he devoted the last 17 years of his career to work for the California Teachers Association (CTA), the largest affiliate within the National Education Association.
Today, Nuñez begins a role as the executive director of the state union.
“To me, public education is the cornerstone of our democracy,” Nuñez said. “And it’s teachers that do that work tirelessly every day and create the educated workforce to make sure that we have a stable democracy in moving forward.
“We should be forever grateful for the work they do.”
As CTA executive director, Nuñez will oversee a staff of 450 members and assist leaders in implementing education policy.
“The biggest priority that I have is to work in consort with the officers of the organization and the board of directors,” he said.
This is not the first time a former Santa Maria educator has served in a leadership capacity in the state union. David Sanchez, the first Latino president of the California Teachers Association, served from 2007 to 2011.
Nuñez gained his first experience leading a teacher’s union in Santa Maria, where he served as president of the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District’s faculty union from 1986 to 1994.
He led teachers in a strike in February 1990, the culmination of parent complaints about the administration and board members and teacher dissatisfaction about employee compensation and benefits.
“1990 was (23) years ago, so the issues at the time were over pay and benefits, and we felt that the district wasn’t being honest in responding that their budget was not able to accommodate more support for teachers,” Nuñez said.
The effort ended in one month with the recall of two board members, according to minutes from a March school board meeting.
“It was very successful,” Nuñez said.
The two state initiatives that would most effect local teachers in moving forward are a state funding overhaul known as the Local Control Funding Formula and implementation of Common Core State Standards, Nuñez said.
The recently passed Local Control Funding Formula, is the governor’s attempt to simplify school financing and funnel more state dollars to schools in need over an eight-year period.
“It’s the biggest thing to (impact) school funding in a generation,” Nuñez said.
CTA is currently amid a strategic planning process to determine how to best deploy resources of the organization.
“Hopefully, the state council will make a decision in January about the direction they want to go in in strategic planning,” Nuñez said.