Baltimore Co. school unions close in on contracts

December 17, 1992|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

Unions representing Baltimore County teachers, teaching assistants and school clerical employees said yesterday that they had reached a tentative agreement with the school board on a contract for the 1993-1994 school year.

But school officials said only that agreements are close.

In either case, union leaders provided few details at a news conference yesterday, which came after weeks of tense negotiations over a school board proposal that would have given administrators far greater power to transfer, promote and lay off teachers.

Union representatives did say the pacts include salary increases, and one source close to the negotiations said the board had backed down from its earlier insistence on major changes in transfers and promotions.

Leaders of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County (TABCO) and the Baltimore County Instructional Assistants and Clerical Employees Inc. (BACE) said there are still a few outstanding issues on contract language, but they expressed confidence that the negotiations could be completed early in the new year.

Another negotiating session has been scheduled Monday to "fine tune" the agreements, said TABCO's chief negotiator, Stephanie Foy.

Superintendent of Schools Stuart Berger said he had been kept apprised of negotiations but was not aware that a final settlement had been reached.

"The agreements will make teachers very happy. Both sides were willing to move toward professionalism," he said, calling the likely agreement with TABCO "the most revolutionary contract in Maryland or in the country."

Dr. Berger said the tentative agreement would be revolutionary in defining teachers' jobs.

"The concepts [in the tentative agreement] are as radical as the concepts proposed, but there was give and take, and there is supposed to be," he said.

Randall Grimsley, the school board's chief negotiator, was involved in negotiations with the American Federation of State and County Municipal Employees and was not available for comment.

Union representatives were hesitant to characterize the agreement during a morning news conference at Villa Cresta Elementary School.

"There has to be give and take on both sides. There are going to be things that teachers will take as gains," said Ms. Foy, but there are also provisions that give the school administration more flexibility.

TABCO and school board negotiators talked until midnight Monday and from Tuesday evening into yesterday's early hours. BACE negotiators finished Tuesday evening.

The contracts do not expire until June 30, but new agreements traditionally are ironed out before the county budget process begins in January.

TABCO president Ed Veit said the agreement will become a "stabilizing force. It's going to get rid of a lot of the uncertainty . . . the rumors and jawboning."

A major issue in the negotiations was a school board proposal that would give the superintendent the power to transfer teachers from school to school at will, eliminating a system that generally matches open positions with teachers who want them on the basis of seniority.

While administrators wanted to transfer teachers to the places they thought they were needed, many teachers with long ties to schools in their communities were upset by the prospect.

Mr. Veit would not comment on specifics in the tentative agreement, but he did say there were provisions for teachers who wanted to move and others who preferred to stay put.

"There will be a salary increase," he added. But instead of across-the-board, cost-of-living raises, the new money will be distributed under a system based on comparable salaries in other counties and on new job classifications which "will really reflect what people do."

Salaries are subject to approval by the county executive, who must include the money in his budget, and by the County Council, which votes on the spending plan.

Because of the recession and cutbacks in state aid, the county is in the midst of one of its worst budget years, and it remains to be seen whether any new money will be approved.

TABCO represents the county's 6,000 teachers and BACE represents about 1,200 teaching assistants and clerical workers. The agreements have to be ratified by the union memberships.

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