Teaching Profession

Runoff Election Thrusts D.C. Union Critic Into Top Job

By Linda Jacobson — February 08, 2005 2 min read

George Parker, a junior high mathematics teacher in the District of Columbia schools, has been elected president of the teachers’ union for the nation’s capital.

Mr. Parker will now lead the Washington Teachers Union out from under the control of administrator George Springer, a representative of the American Federation of Teachers. Mr. Springer has been in charge of the AFT affiliate since its former president, Barbara A. Bullock, was accused of embezzling more than $4 million over a seven-year period. She later pleaded guilty to embezzlement and related charges.

“You have given us your endorsement, and we will live up to your expectations on behalf of teachers, students, and families in the District of Columbia,” Mr. Parker and his running mate for general vice president, Nathan Saunders, wrote in a letter to supporters posted on the candidates’ Web site.

Mr. Parker, who was an outspoken critic of Ms. Bullock, defeated Rachel Hicks, a union field representative, in a runoff election last month. Mr. Parker received 999 votes, while Ms. Hicks received 816.

Ms. Hicks has filed a challenge with the AFT alleging unfair election practices. It has been referred to the WTU’s election committee, according to the AFT.

The total number of votes cast in the runoff was about 1,800. That turnout, about 41 percent, was slightly better than in the general election for officers, when only about 1,350 out of 4,440 eligible members cast ballots.

Said Terence Cooper, a WTU spokesman, “We still have some work to do to raise involvement.” Plans are now under way for Mr. Parker to take a leave of absence from the classroom at Eliot Junior High School and make the transition to president, Mr. Cooper said.

Miami Complaint Tossed

Alex Wohl, an AFT spokesman, said the parent union would provide support to the new leaders, especially in the areas of technology and financial accounting.

While AFT oversight won’t officially continue, Mr. Wohl said, “we’ve always had a relationship with the WTU, and we will increase that. We’ll probably be used more as a resource.”

Meanwhile, in Miami-Dade County—where that district’s teachers’ union has also been operating under an administratorship—a Florida employee-relations agency has dismissed a case filed by the defeated candidate for the presidency of the local.

Shirley B. Johnson, the former secretary-treasurer of the union, asked for an investigation after she lost to Karen Aronowitz, a high school language arts teacher. The election was the first held since United Teachers of Dade’s former president, Pat L. Tornillo, was found guilty of stealing roughly $650,000 from the organization.

Steve Meck, the general counsel for the state’s Public Employee Relations Commission, said he could find no evidence of unfair labor practices in the election. (“Miami Union Election Under Scrutiny by AFT, State,” Jan. 5, 2005.)

Ms. Aronowitz will take the helm of the 15,800-member union at the end of April.

A version of this article appeared in the February 09, 2005 edition of Education Week as Runoff Election Thrusts D.C. Union Critic Into Top Job

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