Expelled from the teachers union in May, an outspoken Anne Arundel County teacher is asking a state labor board to overturn the union's rare decision.
Annapolis High School science teacher Sharon Moesel filed a complaint against Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County in July, two months after the union notified her a letter that it was ending her membership, documents provided to The Capital by Moesel show. She has appealed the decision to the Maryland Public School Labor Relations Board.
A letter sent by union President Richard Benfer and Executive Director Bill Jones cites Moesel's use of her position as an association representative at Annapolis High to further her "personal agenda." This included "ingratiating" herself to County Executive Steve Schuh and negotiating to keep incentives for teachers at Annapolis High that the union and the county school system agreed to end.
"The objective seems to be to silence me, and I'm not going to be silenced," Moesel said.
Moesel received a letter from TAAAC May 30, saying the union's board of directors voted to expel her a week earlier. Moesel denied the allegations made against her and said she wants to rejoin the union.
Jones declined to comment on the expulsion, calling it an internal matter and citing Moesel's appeal to the labor relations board.
Schuh's spokesman Owen McEvoy called Moesel's expulsion an act of bullying.
"It is unconscionable that they would kick her out of the union for trying to have an open dialogue with the county executive," McEvoy said.
Moesel is in her 11th year teaching in Anne Arundel County Public Schools, and her seventh at Annapolis High.
The association expelled her without giving her a chance to defend herself, Moesel's attorney wrote in a complaint filed with the labor relations board July 20. Attorney Judd Millman asked the board to order TAAAC to reinstate Moesel as both a member of the union and to her position as a representative. Association representatives are chosen by colleagues at individual schools.
"Mrs. Moesel has done everything reasonably expected of her in order to support TAAAC and its mission, and has always conducted herself in compliance with all applicable policies," Millman wrote.
The state board is reviewing the case, Executive Director Erica Snipes said.
Earlier this year, Moesel and Schuh's Education Officer Amalie Brandenburg organized several roundtable discussions with teachers and staff from schools throughout the county, Moesel said. Brandenburg and Schuh were at those meetings. Moesel called them and said she had always been careful not to speak on behalf of TAAAC.
"But I do think there are other teacher voices besides TAAAC that have a right to be heard as well," she said.
A lack of step raises had created a lack of trust with county executives and the funding authority in general, she said. She said the meetings built mutual understanding and trust between the executive and teachers.
In TAAAC's motion to dismiss Moesel's appeal, Maryland State Education Association attorney Kristy Anderson said those meetings focused on discussing salaries and health care — two mandatory subjects in the bargaining agreement.
Anderson, who is representing TAAAC, wrote Aug. 17 that Moesel attempted to negotiate directly with the county Board of Education in a letter sent in March. The letter says that Jones injected bias in the negotiating process by referring to bonuses for Annapolis High teachers as "incentives rather than compensation for additional challenges," and by implying that funds would be reallocated to other teachers.
The incentives became a sticking point between union leaders and teachers at Annapolis High School. The money was paid to teachers for several years to recruit and retain staff at one of the most challenged schools in Anne Arundel. Another teacher at the school filed a complaint with the labor relations board asking that it either decertify the union or allow a second bargaining unit. The board denied the request.
The March letter wasn't signed by Moesel — it is signed by the Faculty Advisory Council of Annapolis High School. But Anderson contends that the letter was written by Moesel.
Moesel and McEvoy both said she never presented herself as a union leader during meetings with administration officials or Schuh.
"The fact that TAAAC and its leadership would single out someone in this way is shameful," McEvoy said.
Jones called McEvoy's comments were surprising.
"Most have more integrity than that," he said.
Moesel no longer has the standing to vote, hold office or take part in member-only activities, officials said in the expulsion letter. She pays a fraction of dues, and the union will continue to represent her terms and conditions of employment with the school system as required by statute. She said she is fighting for what she thinks is best for teachers and students.
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"I have two kids in the system," she said. "I'm advocating for my children's teachers and other people's children that I'm entrusted with every day."