Ecker Offers Talk, But No Money, To Irked Teachers

June 26, 1991|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff writer

County Executive Charles I. Ecker's "bridge building" meeting with county teachers union leaders Tuesday failed to span the rift created when Ecker cut money for teacher raises out of the 1991-1992 school budget.

Meanwhile, Superintendent Michael E. Hickey told high school principals Monday that he will try to continue student activities, such as weekend science fairs, PTA "Back to School" nights, dances and sports events in the next school year without teacher volunteers.

James R. Swab, president of the Howard County Education Association, emerged from Tuesday's meeting with Ecker saying he saw no reasonto ask teachers to reconsider the planned withdrawal of voluntary activities in the next school year. Marius Ambrose, Maryland State Teachers Association representative for Howard County, also attended the meeting.

Teachers at seven of the county's eight high schools agreed not to volunteer for late afternoon, evening and weekend events in1991-1992 to protest the elimination of their 6 percent raises and pay boosts for experience. The Wilde Lake High faculty left the decision to individual teachers.

"In order to build bridges, you need concrete and no concrete was offered," Ambrose said of the half-hour session with Ecker. "It was a very general nice chitchat that led nowhere."

The county executive conceded that he had no money to offer and no promises to make on salaries in the 1992-1993 budget. "No problems were solved, but at least we're talking," Ecker said.

He said he hopes to meet with the teachers union leaders again during the summer. He also plans a separate session with Hickey and school board Chairman Deborah D. Kendig.

The meeting Monday between Hickey and high school principals was a follow-up to a June 11 session where principals voiced concerns about the possible impact of the teachers' planto halt voluntary activities.

Hickey did not respond to a requestfor comment on the meeting, and principals referred all questions toschool spokeswoman Patti P. Caplan.

Caplan said the superintendent promised principals the support needed to continue activities, although she said some events might have to be canceled or rescheduled "if we get short-handed."

Additional security guards, parent volunteers or supervisors, directors and other school system administrators might be brought in to help with school activities, Caplan said.

She said no plans exist now to change the school sports schedule. However, teachers who coach high school sports have talked about refusingto play weeknight or Saturday games to protest the county government's failure to finance their pay increase.

Caplan said many of the principals indicated that parents are offering to pitch in, extendingor expanding volunteer help they already give the schools.

Rosemary E.S. Mortimer, PTA Council president, said the consensus at a recent council discussion was that while parents are sympathetic to the teachers' situation, they are worried that some of the voluntary services withdrawal might hurt the children.

If teachers decline to attend graduation, for example, "That's very tough for kids to understand," Mortimer said. She said parents will help wherever they can, although parents cannot replace teachers.

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