County teachers have voted to accept a contract agreement with the school system that provides no salary increases for the second consecutive year.
Thomas J. Paolino, president of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County (TAAAC), said teachers voted overwhelmingly Wednesday night at Severn River Junior High, and with no debate, to accept the contract.
"There was a lot of frustration in the building among teachers," Paolino said. "Morale is lower than ever before."
A mediator had to be called in to resolve the dispute between the school system and TAAAC after negotiations broke off in January over the issues of personal leave and planning time.
The ratified contract allows teachersto accumulate personal leave from year to year, up to four days. Teachers are allotted two personal days annually.
The agreement also gives department chairmen and media specialists five additional paid days for planning. Department chairmen and media specialists will be paid for 195 days, while teachers' work schedules will remain at 190 days.
The contract, which teachers voted 1,920 to 381 to accept, calls for teachers to work one back-to-school night. The school systemhad wanted teachers to participate in three back-to-school nights.
Many of TAAAC's 3,834 members did not participate in the vote. Paolino speculated they may have felt there was no reason to vote, since the contract was likely to be ratified anyway. Or teachers may have decided not to vote as a protest measure against the contract, he said.
Contributing to low morale, Paolino said, was the board's decision to furlough employees April 21 and 22 and June 17 and 18, Paolino said. The salary lost for those four days will be spread over the school year's remaining paychecks, beginning April 15.
While the effects of accepting a contract and furloughs may not be evident in the classroom, Paolino said, there will be a noticeable change among teachers.
"Teachers will still do their jobs," Paolino said. "They are professionals. But I don't see them volunteering for any extras. You won't see them at night meetings. You won't see them going above and beyond the call of duty.
"Teachers believe at this point that theyare the only ones who really care about education," Paolino added.
If the economy does not improve and teachers have to negotiate their next contract under similar conditions, Paolino said, he does not believe there will be "an overwhelming vote" in support of the contract.
"Looking ahead at the contract for '93, I don't think I would be successful in convincing the membership to vote for a contract thatdidn't have a salary increase for the third year in a row," Paolino said. "I went out on a limb to get them to accept two years in a row without a salary increase.
"I think most people felt it was betterto have a contract that you're unhappy with than no contract at all.If you reject the contract, then the board can do whatever. (Teachers would) have no protection," Paolino added.
Teacher salaries in Anne Arundel range from $24,346 to $48,870, depending on seniority andpostgraduate degrees. The average salary, Paolino said, is $43,000.