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Lemle wins re-election as Howard teachers union president

HCEA President Paul Lemle
HCEA President Paul Lemle (Staff photo by Jen Rynda)

Howard County educators have re-elected Paul Lemle to serve a final, two-year term as president of the county teachers union.

Lemle, who has held the position for the past four years, was challenged by Maryland Teacher of the Year Jody Zepp, a government and psychology teacher at Hammond High School.

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"Representing Howard's educators is a real honor, and having a vote of confidence from them is what motivates me every day," Lemle said in a statement. "I will give it everything I've got for two more years, then return to the classroom to share the joy and responsibility of teaching again."

Lemle received 83.8 percent of the 1,638 votes cast — 1,372 votes —compared to Zepp, who received 16.2 percent of the votes, or 266 votes.

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The Howard County Education Association has more than 5,500 members. The voting period ended Feb. 20 and results were released Tuesday.

Lemle, who has been at odds with school system and Board of Education leadership in recent years, said the next steps for the association include a drive to reach 6,000 members and negotiating a new contract — the current agreement expires July 1.

"We're working very hard to make educator pay in Howard County competitive with Montgomery County, where a teacher earns $300,000 more during their [30-year] career," he said.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Zepp said she respects the votes of her fellow educators and, with the election over, she is looking forward to opportunities this year as the Maryland Teacher of the Year, including tuition for a doctoral program and a trip to the White House.

"Life is good," she said.

Earlier this month, Howard County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Sweeney ruled against Zepp's request for a temporary restraining order, where she claimed she had faced an orchestrated effort by HCEA leadership to thwart her campaign.

Zepp and her attorney, former Board of Education candidate Mike Smith, argued that the union had placed limits on her ability to use email to reach educators for campaign purposes, prevented her from taking leave days to visit school union representatives and imposed a gag order on her at a candidates' forum, preventing her from saying anything negative about Lemle's leadership.

Zepp was named Maryland Teacher of the Year in October. State teachers union and education officials believe Zepp would have been the first state teacher of the year to be elected as a county teachers union president in the year after being named top teacher in the state.

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