Elizabeth Davis was reelected as the Washington Teachers’ Union president Monday, beating out a crowded field to secure her third term as one of the most powerful labor leaders in the District.
To win the election, the incumbent and her slate topped former teachers union president Nathan Saunders, whom Davis ousted from the job in 2013.
Concha Johnson, chair of the union’s election committee, said the mail-in ballots were tallied Monday evening. She said the counts have not been finalized, so she could not reveal how many votes each of the six presidential candidates and their slates received.
But she said Davis won by a landslide, with Saunders finishing second.
The union election turned contentious when Saunders revealed on his campaign website that Davis had recently been charged with driving under the influence. Davis pleaded guilty in Prince George’s County Circuit Court and must complete traffic classes.
Davis said in an interview she was excited with the election results but disappointed with union-member turnout. According to Davis, about 15 percent of the more than 4,000 ballots sent out were returned.
“I do know that is largely due to teachers feeling beaten down and feeling that their voices don’t matter,” Davis said. “Whatever work I have done to get them to vote for me suggests that I am on the right track to making that happen.”
The election came just as the union begins negotiations with the school system for a new teacher contract. The current pact expires Sept. 30, and Davis said she hopes a new deal will be ready by the time the old one lapses.
Davis said one of her priorities will be to ensure the city changes its controversial teacher evaluation system — known by the acronym IMPACT — so teachers can be confident that a low score will not be used as a weapon against them.
She is pushing the D.C. Council to introduce legislation that would give teachers a bigger say in what the evaluation system would entail.
Saunders said that he plans to remain involved in the union and that the low turnout for the election demonstrates disenchantment among teachers with their representation.
“It’s a disappointing level of engagement,” Saunders said. “It’s indicative of high teacher turnover, it’s indicative of the contract, and it’s indicative of the teachers’ desires for something other than what the union is serving.”
Monica Brokenborough, a music teacher at Hyde-Addison Elementary who finished third in the race, said her commitment to the union has not wavered despite the results. She is studying to apply to law school so she can become an employment and labor lawyer.