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As new leadership moves forward, uncertainty remains over Baltimore Teachers Union election results

As new leadership moves forward, uncertainty remains over Baltimore Teachers Union election results
Diamonté Brown has assumed her duties as president of BTA (Baltimore Teachers Union) even though the potential for a new election remains. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

Uncertainty still hangs over the Baltimore Teachers Union’s new leadership, three weeks after national union officials launched an investigation into the election.

Diamonté Brown has taken on her duties as union president, even with the threat of a new election looming. Brown defeated incumbent Marietta English on May 15, seemingly ushering in a new era for the nearly 7,000-member organization that English ran for eight terms.

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Almost immediately after election officials read the vote — Brown won by an initial tally of 901-839 — English pledged to challenge the results. The union Elections Committee then announced it would schedule a new election, without stating specific reasons why, prompting Brown to ask the national leadership at the American Federation of Teachers to intervene.

Both sides lodged complaints, saying the election was riddled with issues. Brown’s slate said the elections committee attempted to suppress the vote and implemented procedures that favored the incumbent ticket. English’s team alleged that Brown’s supporters had violated election rules and campaigned improperly.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten held an eight-and-a-half hour hearing in Baltimore on June 10 but hasn’t provided an update since then. Officials there hope to announce a decision sometime this month.

“The election investigation committee understands the urgency of this matter and will work to make its recommendations as quickly as possible to ensure that members in Baltimore have a fully functioning local, and that the sanctity of the democratic election process is protected,” AFT officials wrote in a June statement.

Kelly Durkin, a Hampstead Hill Academy teacher, says it’s been frustrating for educators to have to wait for a decision. AFT hasn’t provided updates, allowing for rumors to flourish. Many teachers, she said, are ready to move on from the contentious election and focus on improving working conditions and educational outcomes in the city.

Without a ruling from AFT, she said, “it does feel like we’ve got this cloud hanging over our head.”

A report on the committee’s findings must be submitted to the AFT’s executive council for approval. The next executive council meeting is scheduled for later this month.

In the meantime, Brown has assumed the duties of BTU president, overseeing the recent decision to extend the current union contract. Members of her executive team have testified before the school board in opposition to a new method of evaluating teachers, and they fought back recently over a pay issue. She did not respond to a request for an interview.

Durkin, who supported Brown and her slate of candidates, said she feels the new leadership has done a good job under difficult circumstances. The Union We Deserve slate, led by Brown, ran on a promise to be more accountable to members and to prioritize fighting for social justice and racial equity.

Still, she said, “progress they make feels like it could be swept away if AFT makes a decision to have a new election.”

In a statement, English indicated she was holding onto hope.

“We are confident in the evidence we presented,” she said, “and stand by our belief that erroneous violations took place during the election process.”

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