Feeling Betrayed, Coaches Plan Job Actions

June 09, 1991|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff writer

Teachers who coach high school sports voted not to plan or attend sports banquets, may refuse to play weeknight or Saturday games and will look at other ways to protest the county's refusal to finance a negotiated pay raise for them.

Fifty coaches, nearly half of the 110-member Howard County Coaches Association, met last week at Howard High School to consider responses to the school board's $180.7 million operating budget for the 1992 fiscal year.

The budget, unanimously approved by the County Council before being adopted by the board nine days ago, denies teachers the 6 percent raise they were to receive under a three-year contract signed last year by the board and the Howard County Education Association. The HCEArepresents 2,700 teachers, principals, supervisors, secretaries and instructional assistants.

"A contract is a sacred thing, and they (the council) have ripped it. They've desecrated a law of American life," said Mark Cates, athletic director at Mount Hebron High. "It hurts us in our hearts to think about what we're going to do. But they've broken a covenant."

Besides debating actions --from not signing coaching contracts for the new school year to refusing to do fund-raising for their teams -- coaches appointed a representative from each school to produce a list of job-actions to be considered at a meetingTuesday.

The coaches voted not to plan or attend sports banquets that mark the end of the season. And they agreed to second the threats of fellow teachers, principals and administrators, some of whom have said they will not work at after-school functions next year. The county's eight high school principals will meet with School Superintendent Michael Hickey Tuesday to come up with guidelines under which to conduct their job action.

Teachers, principals and administrators,who routinely take part in such activities as overnight field trips and dance chaperoning, handle duties such as crowd control and ticket-taking at sporting events.

If teachers and administrators go through with job actions, coaches said they will support them by refusingto play any weeknight or Saturday league games -- a decision that would make a mess of the fall county schedule.

"It would cause a lotof field conflicts. It would cause real havoc," said Don Disney, thecounty's executive supervisor of physical education, who had hoped to begin assigning officials to fall games this week. "It would affectevery sport this fall except volleyball, cross country and golf. I just hope something is resolved."

"These are the kinds of things every school can do and have an impact," said Howard softball coach Dave Vezzi, who said he might not coach next year. "We'll be fulfilling our obligation as coaches, but the community is going to be upset because they won't be able to see those Saturday football games. I'm really upset. My wife is a teacher in this county. We stand to lose over$8,000 next year with a baby on the way."

"I'm not participating in a holiday tournament, I'm not playing any night lacrosse games andI will not have a holiday practice," said Dan Ross, Howard's 16-yearlacrosse coach. "If someone backs me into a corner, I'm either gonnafight or quit. I've got to fight. If we don't do something, next year the same thing will happen, and we won't get a raise again."

Some coaches, fearing a backlash from parents, are against a job action.

"We asked these people to help us last year (when coaches unsuccessfully tried to get the board to reopen pay talks and give coaches more money). And they did," said Joe Russo, who coaches football, girls basketball and track at Hammond. "Now, we want to do something that's going to hurt them and their kids. I don't think that's fair or politically sound."

County Executive Charles I. Ecker expressed disappointment in teachers for considering "denying their kids services to get at me and the council." He added he didn't anticipate another shortage that would cause teachers to lose a second 6 percent raise.

"I certainly hope not, but next year will be another tough year. We've got a lot of deferred needs, like school maintenance and roads toworry about," Ecker added. "I hope the economy will turn around. Every effort will be made to fund it (teachers' raises). Right now, we simply don't have the money."

Many coaches see Ecker and the council as having left teachers out in the cold while restoring other programs previously cut by Ecker from Hickey's original budget proposal.

For instance, the council restored about $1.5 million to purchase textbooks, finance the county's gifted and talented programs and hire additional teachers. But the council refused to restore any of the $8.5 million that would have been required for teachers' raises.

"Everything is fine except us -- the heart and soul, the people who run the show," said Mount Hebron girls basketball coach Dave Greenberg. "It's garbage. They screwed us. But at least everybody in Howard County can be gifted again."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.