The longtime president of the Baltimore Teachers Union narrowly fought off her first serious challenger in years to win an eighth term in office.
“I’m proud to have received the support of Baltimore’s paraprofessionals, school-related personnel and teachers,” union President Marietta English said in a statement Wednesday.
“This election is an indication of the confidence our members have in our leadership, policies, and programs.”
But teachers who supported her challenger said the close race indicated growing dissatisfaction with her leadership, and a desire to shake up the union’s top ranks.
“This is an earthquake inside BTU,” Alan Rebar, who's been active in the union for 18 years, said of the election. “It absolutely reflects a lot of teachers being frustrated or angry about business as usual.”
The union represents about 6,000 teachers, paraprofessionals and school-related personnel. Union officials said the results of the vote would be released when they are certified and official.
Challenger Kimberly Mooney, a Spanish teacher at Roland Park Elementary/Middle School, said she received only nine fewer teacher votes than English, according to unofficial results revealed Wednesday night.
Paraprofessionals and other school personnel widened the gap, according to Mooney, an 11-year veteran of the system. She said English received about 170 more votes from those members than she did.
Mooney emerged as English’s most serious challenger in years, many teachers said. Mooney said she would advocate on behalf of all union members, rather than certain groups, and increase transparency in the union.
English, a retired educator who spent her career in the city, campaigned on her experience and the fact that she negotiated the “most innovative contract in the entire nation,” that helped make city educators the highest paid in the state. She did not respond to requests for comment Thursday on the election results.
Katrina Kickbush, who has worked for 15 years as a special educator, said she voted for English because “proven leaders with solid on the ground experience is what makes the difference for children, their families and the cities in which they live.”
“While no one individual can change the world, Ms. English is able to see the value of bringing people together in order to achieve the best outcomes for all,” Kickbush said.
Teachers said Mooney’s support demonstrated an increased desire to change the status quo in the union’s ranks.
Rebar, a 19-year veteran of the school system, said the turnout Wednesday was the largest he has seen in more than a decade.
Mark Miazga, a 15-year teacher who said he has benefited from the contract English negotiated, believes there are many unaddressed issues in the contract that unfairly penalize his colleagues.
Miazga, a 2013 recipient of the prestigious Milken Educator Award, said the union doesn’t sufficiently address issues important to teachers such as large class sizes and incessant testing.
“I make more money than I thought I would ever be able to make as a teacher,” Miazga said. “But there are too many things I don’t hear coming from the BTU. I feel like their focus is not the focus of the teachers and students a lot of times, and I wanted a different voice.”
Mooney said the support from her colleagues was encouraging.
“We didn't get in there this time,” she said. “But I will run again in three years and in the meantime I will do all I can to publicly raise the issues that matter to all of us.”