At least 50 teachers crowded into the Baltimore County school board meeting last night to again demonstrate their unhappiness over budget cuts, lack of pay raises, furlough days and the prospect of more crowded classrooms.
"I have been talking since November about the frustration of the teachers out here," Ed Veit, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, told board members. "I have said that the teachers have had it, and no one has heard me or understood me."
In an attempt to be heard and to increase pressure on public officials, TABCO announced earlier this week that teachers will refuse to perform all voluntary services, and will work only during the designated hours required by their contracts.
Mr. Veit said that although it is charged that the effects of teachers working strictly by their union contract is harmful to students, he dismissed the charge, saying: "It's not teachers that exposed Sussex Elementary School students to asbestos. It's not teachers who made kids go to school in the stench of Essex Elementary. It's not teachers who said air conditioning for students isn't cost effective. . . . All of these things are much more punishing to children than anything teachers could ever come up with."
The unusually large turnout last night took place during what was the first board meeting for Stuart Berger, the county's new superintendent who will take over for Robert Y. Dubel July 1. Dr. Berger is visiting the county this month.
Many of the teachers had attended a meeting prior to the board meeting. About 60 county educators, part of an organization called the Federation of Indignant Teachers, met at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall on Harford Road in Parkville to vent their frustrations and talk about ways to get their message across to administrators, parents and the community.
The group decided that teachers would use all of their allowed personal leave days by the end of the year, start taking sick days and not work when they aren't feeling well, and would strictly adhere to their labor contract until they are compensated for two years of no salary increase and for four furlough days.
"TABCO is limited in its response and in what it can do," said Kenneth J. Shapiro, a guidance counselor at Hillendale Elementary School. "The most effective thing that we've done in the past 10 years was on March 17th," he said, referring to the sickout staged by about 300 teachers that day.