Candidates question process


They say election isn't fair, favors incumbent teachers

May 12, 2004|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

Two candidates for president of the Baltimore Teachers Union have raised concerns about next week's election, saying the process favors incumbents and isn't fairly run.

Three teachers are running against union President Marietta English. Two of the challengers - Clarice Herbert-Brown, a languages teacher at Walbrook High Uniform Services Academy, and Kojo L. McCallum, a fourth-grade teacher at Charles Carroll Barrister Elementary School - said they have become increasingly frustrated with the process.

The third challenger, Richard Perkins, a teacher at the National Academy Foundation High School, could not be reached for comment.

The election is May 19.

"The incumbents are trying to control the election process because they don't want a challenge," Herbert-Brown said.

Herbert-Brown said that only the current president has the teachers' membership list. Challengers can view the list but cannot make copies - making mass mailings to teachers difficult and phoning them at home next to impossible, she said.

"There's no way to know who all the union members are unless you have the list," McCallum said.

English - who is running for her second two-year term as president - said the challengers' complaints aren't new. People have been complaining about union campaigns for years, she said. "It's the same process that's been in place for I don't know how many elections," English said.

Another problem, the candidates said, is challengers aren't allowed to use interoffice mail to contact members. So they must visit all 184 schools - before school, after school or during lunch hours - to hand out literature and talk with teachers.

Although union rules say candidates for office should have "no less than 30 days to campaign," the candidates said, the electioneering time has been much shorter.

"From the time the official campaign started, we had 18 working days to get to schools and campaign," McCallum said. "They do not allow you any time off to campaign. So it's hard to reach every place."

McCallum and Herbert-Brown said they also have encountered resistance from some principals and union building representatives when trying to distribute their campaign literature in teachers' mailboxes at schools. McCallum alleges that one English supporter removed his fliers from boxes.

English said she was unaware that any of her supporters were removing opponents' campaign literature. "We don't condone any of that," English said. "We asked that all literature be placed in mailboxes."

English said that in her last election, she believed that one of her opponents was violating rules. "But I didn't go crying to the newspaper about it being unfair," she said. "You just run your campaign."

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