A sickout by about 300 Baltimore County teachers to protest mandatory unpaid work days left some school administrators scrambling today to cover classes and ensure that instruction at the system's 148 schools continued normally.
Teachers were upset at the fact that the four unpaid days were scheduled during periods when the teachers would normally be working at school without the students, and they will now have to work those days without pay.
The majority of absences appeared to be in five high schools and two middle schools, said spokesman Richard E. Bavaria. The high schools with the most teachers absent were: Parkville, 35; Dulaney, 21; Woodlawn, 28; Perry Hall, 36; and Overlea, 24.
Johnnycake Middle School in Westview had 28 teachers absent, and Sparrows Point Middle School was missing 19 teachers. At most elementary schools, the entire faculties reported for work.
"We're flying by the seat of our pants in some schools to make sure classes are supervised and that the students are supervised," said Mr. Bavaria, who emphasized that all classes had been covered. "I understand that in some places we have central office people who have been brought in to cover classes. We have secretaries covering some classes, and, of course, substitute teachers."
The work action was not initiated or condoned by the teacher union. "The Teachers Association of Baltimore County has never advised nor encouraged our members to engage in a work stoppage now or in the past," said Edward W. Veit, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County.
"If, however, teachers have reached this level of frustration that is leading them to take this action, we understand their need."
At Dulaney High School, 25 teachers from the 100-member faculty called in sick, said principal Thomas R. Hensley. On an average day, about eight teachers are out because of illness or personal business.
"Everything right now is going smoothly," Mr. Hensley said. "We have substitutes in that are qualified and we have some covering that is occurring with administrators. But everything is going smoothly. Instruction is going on as normal."
At Fort Garrison Elementary School in Pikesville, all 25 teachers reported for work today. Principal Ann Glazer said that during informal conversations among themselves yesterday, the teachers decided a sickout would have a negative impact on the students.
"The teachers are upset about the furlough policy, but they just felt a sickout was not the way to go," Ms. Glazer said. "We have a very dedicated bunch of teachers here. They've said they'll come in and work even on the furlough days, so it wasn't likely they'd take part in something like [the sickout]."
Teachers involved in the work action said they had hoped to attract the public's attention to what they hold is an unfair policy toward them.
"From a teacher's point of view, we wanted them to scream," said Kenneth J. Shapiro, a guidance counselor at Hillendale Elementary School. "If the public doesn't feel the pain, then the government will come back for furloughs whenever they need a few bucks."
Parent reaction was varied. At Pinewood Elementary School, parents stood outside the school in bitterly cold weather yesterday and today holding signs supporting the teachers. But not all parents were sympathetic.
"I think that the teachers are being very unfair," said Patricia Bauer, who has a son in the fourth grade at Stoneleigh Elementary School. "This is a bit much for four days."