Lorton Upsets Unions On Furlough Dates, Then Backtracks

December 18, 1991|By Dianne Williams Hayes | Dianne Williams Hayes,Staff writer

The Board of Education abruptly interrupted its meeting Monday nightafter School Superintendent Larry L. Lorton introduced a plan for furlough days over the holidays-- a plan that contradicted an agreementthe board had reached with employee unions.

Lorton later amended his remarks, placing the furlough days in April and June -- but not before being lambasted by union representatives from teacher, principal, secretary and custodial groups.

During a Dec. 2 meeting between board members and the County Council, the two sides agreed to schedule the furlough days late in the school year, in the hope enough money would become available to make the unpaid holidays unnecessary.

When, halfway through yesterday's meeting, Lorton read his recommendation to schedule the four furloughdays during the Christmas break, union representatives immediately called him to task.

"You and I are on different planets," said Jim Pickens, president of Local 1693 of the American Federation of State,County and Municipal Employees, which represents custodians and bus drivers.

Dee Zepp, head of the Secretaries and Assistants Association of Anne Arundel County joined in.

"Dr. Lorton, we sat here andasked you three times. You never mentioned this," Zepp said, as Lorton sat amid a frustrated board.

Ironically, union representatives came to tell the board how their memberships had decided to prepare for possible furloughs. AFSCME, as well as the board's executive and professional staffs, opted to have money deducted from their pay checks beginning Jan. 22, thus building a nest egg in case of furloughs.

The Association of Education Leaders (which represents county principals), the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County and SAAAAC plan to wait it out.

After Lorton made his remarks, board President Jo Ann Tollenger interrupted the meeting, calling for a 10-minute break that lasted 40 minutes.

AEL President Richard Kovelant shook his head as he watched board members leave the meeting room for an executive session.

"I think we just witnessed a murder -- it might be Dr. Lorton's, figuratively speaking," Kovelant said. "What we have here is failure to communicate."

The meeting began again with Lortonretracting his statement, and the announcement that furloughs, if necessary, will be April 21 and 22, and June 22 and 23.

Teachers andstudents will be off Dec. 23 through Jan. 5, without furloughs. Schools reopen Jan. 6.

"The board has said no furlough days until after April 6; we intend to keep our word," Tollenger promised the unions.

After the meeting, she explained the confusion.

"I don't knowif we gave him (Lorton) a clear direction," Tollenger said. "There could have been some misconception. But we needed to get it resolved."

In other business, board members voted to send a letter to CountyExecutive Robert R. Neall asking that money for Broadneck Senior High School be moved from the county's to the board's budget. Parent groups requested the move in order to get the high school on a grade nine-12 alignment by 1994.

The school currently has students in grades 10-12; parents complain that ninth-graders at Severn River Junior High are missing out on a full high school experience.

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