- Faith & Family
Federick “Fed” Ingram recently made history — becoming the first Black elected to head the United Teachers of Dade [UTD] as its president. Ingram, 39, beat four other candidates with just under 51 percent of 7,000 votes cast and had the endorsement of the outgoing president, Karen Aronowitz. He will take over in May, becoming just the third president in nearly 50 years.
Prior to 1974, Dade County had two teachers unions: one Black and one white. But that was before the days of integration. Ingram says a lot of things have changed since then — many for the better.
In some regards, Ingram, even before his recent victory, had become one of the District’s rising stars, moving quickly out of the gate after graduating from Miami Jackson Senior High School, earning his degree at Bethune-Cookman University, being selected as the Miami-Dade Teacher of the Year in 2006 and then being elected by his peers to serve as the UTD secretary/treasurer in 2007. But now the stakes are much higher and as he says, “I know the honeymoon will be over soon.”
Aggressive negotiation is a high priority
“At the core we are still a union and that means we fight for people,” he said. “We fight fiercely because we represent people who do important work — educating young minds. I make no excuses for vehemently advocating for what teachers do. Somewhere along the way, educators stopped getting the respect we deserve but for me that respect is non-negotiable. Teaching is hard work and we’ve been asked to do more for less over the past several years. We haven’t had a raise in four years. We are going to change that.”
While Ingram emphasized that the full contract is not up for negotiation year, he says this year is what’s called a “re-opener.” In other words, each side will have the opportunity to bring two issues of concern to the table.
“We’ll be negotiating pay and health care,” he said.
The challenge of being the first Black
Ingram was reluctant to make any comparison between himself and America’s first Black president, Barack Obama. Still, he understands the challenges he faces and the history of how things have changed to allow a man like him to have such an opportunity.
“I was just at a school yesterday not far from the offices of The Miami Times and I told the students that while my culture is important to me and to my family, what my victory illustrates is the great progress we’ve made towards diversity. Most of my formative years were spent in the projects and when I was in college there were days when I didn’t eat. Our children have to understand that struggle is part of life. At the same time, there are some things that are truly worth the struggle.”
Ingram takes over a union whose membership has dwindled over recent years — a phenomenon that is happening across the U.S. Today, at just over 18,000 members, he lists raising the number of members and reminding those members of the relevance of UTD as some of his immediate goals. He also includes the following: lifting the morale of the teaching force; holding not just teachers and administrators accountable for the improvement and success of students, but also holding parents, business owners, community leaders and the students themselves accountable; and opening the doors of the schools so that all parents feel that they are welcome to come inside.
“Back in the day, you didn’t always have a mother or father coming to school to see about their child, but there was someone who was responsible — a caregiver, an adopted aunt or uncle,” he said. “We must be about nurturing our youth, bringing back options like the arts or vocational training and most of all making this new generation of parents, especially Black parents, understand that it is never too early for a child to begin to learn.”
UTD members still have a few more decisions to make before Ingram officially takes over. Carla Hernandez-Mats, one of the candidates that was part of Ingram’s slate, must go against Wanda Santos in a March 19th runoff election.
By D. Kevin McNeir