Ex-chief of teacher union in Baltimore seeks return

May 15, 1998|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

Two years after her ouster as the longtime president of the Baltimore Teachers Union, Irene B. Dandridge is attempting to make a comeback. She's trying to get on the ballot for Tuesday's union election.

Dandridge, who has filed suit to block the election and is in the midst of a petition drive to sanction her candidacy, is hoping to regain a post she held for 17 years. She lost it in 1996 after accusations that she mismanaged the finances of the city's largest municipal union.

Next week's election is a crowded contest, with five candidates on the ballot for the job of representing the city's 7,200 teachers. The election comes at a crucial time for Baltimore schools as a reform-minded board attempts to bring accountability to an underperforming system.

The presidency of the union changed in January when Marcia P. Brown, who upset Dandridge two years ago, resigned to take another job. Her replacement, Marietta English, is running for the presidency.

On April 30, Dandridge filed suit to overturn the BTU leaders, who ruled she was not a qualified candidate. The lower court has rejected her plea for an injunction, and Dandridge's lawyers this week appealed to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

Jeffrey N. Pritzker, Dandridge's attorney, said he doesn't expect the appellate court to rule before Monday on the motion to delay the election.

Pritzker said the union's executive board wrongly concluded that Dandridge was ineligible to run because she had not taught in the Baltimore schools for the past year.

"Their own constitution doesn't require what they say it requires," Pritzker said. "She's a dues-paying member in good standing. She was not teaching for the Baltimore city schools for the past year, but that is not what is required."

Pritzker said that anyone who "engages in teaching or performs educational duties in Baltimore City" qualifies to run for union office and that Dandridge meets those criteria. He said she gathered 400 signatures on a petition supporting her candidacy when only 50 were required.

"There's widespread support for her," Pritzker said.

Candidates on the ballot in addition to English are Peggy J. Waller, a 30-year teacher in city schools; Charles A. Dugger, who has taught at a number of city schools; Adolph McDonald, 15-year teacher; and Margo Young, who has taught for 22 years.

Peter French, a teacher who is active in a union reform movement called Teachers for a New Direction, said the election is important because of the school board's new policies on length of the school day as well as performance evaluations for teachers.

Despite the interest of candidates, three forums over the past week have been sparsely attended. Last night, only one teacher attended.

Dandridge declined to discuss why she is attempting to reclaim the union's presidency.

Pub Date: 5/15/98

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