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Baltimore Teachers Union election to be held Wednesday

Update: The Baltimore Teachers union announced voting hours will be extended at two locations due to unforseen circumstances. Friendship Academy of Engineering and Technology and Edmondson-Westside H.S. will be open until 6:30 p.m.

Baltimore city teachers are scheduled to elect their union leaders Wednesday and the union's longtime president is facing her first serious challenger in years.

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Marietta English, who has been president of the union for 16 years -- she was defeated once in 2000 by two votes -- is facing a Roland Park Elementary/Middle School teacher who says she wants to bring more transparency and advocacy back to the union.

English, a retired teacher, did not respond to an inquiry about her motivations for running, but in biographies posted on the BTU website,  she touted negotiating the "most innovative contract in the entire nation," and helping city educators become the highest paid in the state.

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"She has a great vision for the BTU and would like to continue her work as the president," her bio reads.

Kimberly Mooney, an 11-year-veteran of the school system who teaches Spanish, has gained support in recent weeks as she's campaigned throughout the city. Her Facebook candidate's page has about 800 supporters, some of whom started a petition in support of her candidacy calling for more transparent and accessible elections.

Mooney said she would focus on transparency, particularly how the union operates and spends members' union dues.

She said she would also negotiate an evaluation system that represents all members -- rather than just classroom teachers -- and doesn't penalize teachers for working in the toughest schools.

The union represents about 6,000 members that include teachers, para-professionals and other school-based staff. Union leaders are currently negotiating a new contract with the school system.

"We need to listen to teachers and advocate on behalf of all of us, instead of making top-down decisions that only affect people on the board," Mooney said.

Mooney said that serving as a building representative in recent years has shown her how ineffective the union has become. She said the meetings usually involve just eating food while the representatives "pass on messages from North Avenue."

"There's not a lot of listening going on," she said.

Mooney said that last spring's unrest, which has spurred a series of leadership changes throughout the city, has highlighted the desire to change the status quo -- and the entity representing unions should be no exception.

"We're all up against a lot, the kids and the teachers, and we should all be working together to address some of the issues going on, and that's not happening."

The election will take place from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at six schools throughout the city.

erica.green@baltsun.com

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twitter.com/EricaLG

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