It's a "hot issue," says William H. Hyde, Carroll's assistant superintendent of administration, of a board proposal that would require teachers to attend back-to-school night and similar functions.
"It'sabsolutely essential in public education that teachers attend meetings which are a major part of the educational program and in which parents attend and expect to meet their children's teachers," said Edward J. Gutman, the board's counsel and negotiator in teacher contract talks.
Specifically, the board wants teachers to attend three meet-the-teacher or back-to-school nights and other schoolwide meetings scheduled by a principal that include parent-teacher conferences as a major part of the program.
It's a proposal that has not gone over well with the Carroll County Education Association, which represents 1,300 teachers. In fact, the issue is one of several that has forced an impasse between the board and the CCEA (please see details on Page 4).
"Our teachers are having to do more and more away from school on their own time," CCEA chief negotiator Harold Fox said. "For board negotiators to come in and demand that everybody participate in extracurricular activities without compensation is not acceptable, particularly in a year money is so tight."
Initially, the board wanted to require teachers to attend meetings of the parent-teacher associations and "any other related parent, teacher or student organization." It has since reworded its proposal.
CCEA objected to the PTA mandate, as well, but eventually agreed to require teachers to attend meet-the-teacher night.
"We already compromised on the issue," Fox said. "This proposal goes beyond that. They are making things difficult in terms of resolving a contract."
Besides differences on that issue, teachers and the board remain apart on salaries, a proposal for a smoke-free workplace and contract language. The board initially offered teachers a 3 percent wage increase, but revoked that earlier this month because of the county's economic crunch.
Wanting teachers to attend back-to-school night and other parent-teacher related events is not a new issue. Many districts besides Carroll have contracts that encourage teachers to attend the events.
"It often comes down to personal preference and dedication," said John Morris, president of the Maryland Negotiating Service, an organization made up of chief negotiators from the state's counties.
Garrett County teachers are required by contract to attend back-to-school or similar parent-teacher association programs each year, said Morris, the district's assistant
superintendent of administration.
Neither Morris nor Susan Buswell, executive director of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, knew of any other districts with such contract language.
"Itis absolutely critical for parents to be able to meet their sons' and daughters' teachers early in the year so they can connect faces with a name and establish communication and a productive and positive relationship for the year," said Peter B. McDowell, Carroll's director of secondary schools.
Hyde said the board has sought the proposal because it wants assurance that teachers will attend these events.
"There have been times when such a session would be scheduled and there would be a dark room because a teacher wouldn't be there," he said. "I can't say that it has been a prevailing or a common problem, but it has happened."
Fox said there was no major complaint or hint of a problem until recent contract sessions.