UTD election made history, raised haunting questions
By Derek Joy
The United Teachers of Dade (UTD) got in on the ground floor of Black History when it elected the first Black American president in the 40 year history of the organization.
Fedrick Ingram, a 1991 graduate of Miami Jackson High School, beat out five other candidates to win a controversial election that raises some haunting questions.
Ingram, a graduate of Bethune Cookman University and former band director at Carol City High School, is the current secretary/treasurer. His election was questioned by several opponents and Geno Perez, who lost a bid for the first vice president’s chair.
“My number one priority is to go right into collective bargaining negotiations with the District,” Ingram said. “Teachers haven’t had a significant raise in three years. Now, we’re in an economic upswing. “So I want to address the pay raise issue and healthcare.”
“Secondly, I want to get actively involved in community activities and civic activities. At the end of the day we’re a social justice organization. We fight for the rights of people every day.”
Fighting for whose rights, like the election results, was questioned by no less than three candidates.
Results of the Feb. 19, elections were delayed some 36 hours by reported mechanical problems with Scantron readers. A judge denied the request of some candidates who wanted the Miami Dade Supervisor of Elections to oversee the vote counting.
“The process is flawed,” said Perez, who remains in litigation contesting the 2010 UTD Presidential Election that was won by outgoing President Karen Aronowitz. “I filed complaints on how the election was run because there was voter fraud involved. That was a blatant act of fraud.”
“The Court didn’t want to hear the case until we exhausted all of our remedies. We had to complain through the Internal Functions Committee. But how do you get people to investigate themselves? They were the same people filling out the votes.”
That litigation, according to Perez, has been repeatedly delayed as the UTD spent $300,000 in attorney’s fees fighting the allegations.
Perez, Ceresta Smith and the Rev. Dr. James Bush complained that votes from Lillie C. Evans Elementary, Booker T. Washington High and 14 other schools were invalidated.
“I’m not intimately involved in the mechanical process so I can’t answer questions. I can only say there was a delay as for votes being invalidated,” said Ingram.
“We have a process. I feel good about the process. And I’m willing to move forward. I invite those who disagree to engage in dialogue with me.”
That dialogue should surely include the problem of declining UTD membership, which is listed at approximately 14,000 of the District’s 22,000 classroom teachers. Of that member-ship, only 7,000 voted. There are predictions of more defections to soon follow.
Interestingly enough, Black Americans make up about 68-percent of the UTD member-ship, many of whom are complaining about the more than $11-million of their dues are being paid to local, state and national organizations.
“Never in my life have I witnessed such an unfair process in an election. This is as bad as the voter fraud in Hialeah and the county. My complaint is about integrity, transparency,” said Bush.
“I’m talking about a gross miscarriage of justice occurred during this election. There is absolutely no transparency. I believe our 13, 14 and 15 Amendment rights were violated.”
El Portal Village Mayor Daisy M. Black, a substitute teacher at Lillie C. Evans, and a UTD member, said she wasn’t aware that votes at her school were in-validated.
“I didn’t vote because I was in Tallahassee. But I know that everybody had a chance to be included in the process.”
Said Smith, a candidate for President: “I feel like there were a lot of election violations. I hate to say there was fraud, but there were a lot of errors, no continuity. The fact that they can’t conduct a fair and equitable election is not the kind of example educators should set for children.”
Meanwhile, Tom Gannon was elected First Vice President and a runoff election between Karla Hernandez Mats and Wanda Santos for Secretary/Treasurer is scheduled for March 19.