MIAMI – Miami-Dade public school teachers made history May 16 when Fedrick Ingram was sworn in as the first African-American president of their union, the United Teachers of Dade (UTD). It will make it the first time in the UTD’s 83 year history that a black man will lead the organization.
Ingram, 39, was elected to head the organization in February. He takes over for Karen Arnonwitz, who had served as president since 2004 but chose not to run for a fourth term.
Now it is Ingram’s responsibility to represent about 23,000 teachers and another 7,000 school employees in Miami-Dade County. Roughly 40 percent of those members are African American.
The Miami native graduated from Miami Jackson High School in Allapattah and attended then Bethune-Cookman College, where he was a drum major with the Marching Wildcats band.
After earning his B.A. degree in Music Education in 1995 he returned to Miami and began teaching at Lake Stevens Middle School.
In 1998, he was hired as a music teacher at Booker T. Washington Senior High, where he taught for four years before moving on to Miami Carol City Senior High. In his seven years at Carol City, he served as the Fine Arts Department chairperson and the band director.
TEACHER OF YEAR
One of his most significant achievements as an educator was getting Advanced Placement Music Theory into the curriculum at Miami Carol City High in Miami Gardens, a move that helped prepare students for the academic challenges of college. The course gave aspiring music majors an opportunity to take college level classes for credit.
Ingram has been a UTD member since he started his teaching career but it was not until he was named Miami-Dade County Teacher of the Year in 2006 that he decided to run for office in the union. He was elected treasurer in 2007.
Beverly Carter-Remy, president of the Miami chapter of the National Alliance of Black Teachers, described his election as “a new day for Miami-Dade County Public Schools.”
“He has a wealth of experience as a teacher and a band director and has been doing a fine job representing us as the union’s treasurer,” she said.
Ingram says being the first black UTD president will not affect his focus on issues affecting all teachers.
“It’s important to me, my family and my culture,” he said, “but, more important is the diversity which we represent. Our union is just as diverse as our city and Miami is a microcosm of our nation. I don’t want to make this election about me. I’m a small piece of the puzzle when it comes to what happens to teachers at our schools.”
So he will pursue not a “black agenda” but a “public schools agenda, a Miami-Dade agenda.”
“Some of our schools that face challenges happen to be minority schools, not just African-American schools,” he said. “We have to start where we are hurting the most.”
Ingram “doesn’t need a “black agenda,” Carter-Remy agreed. “He’s familiar with our community. He’s familiar with who makes up Miami-Dade County Public Schools. In order to be successful, he’s going to have to represent those who make up the district.”
Besides tackling such bread-and-butter issues as teacher salaries and benefits, Ingram says he wants the community to have a better understanding of what UTD is all about.
“We’re going to be all over this city, all over this state, talking and advocating what we do in our schools,” he said. “It’s important for everyone to understand our message.” He sees an expanded community role within UTD through a cooperative effort with small businesses, the clergy and civic and social groups to improve public education.