Teachers' contract talks stall

March 17, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

Talks between Anne Arundel County teachers and the Board of Education have stalled for the third year in a row, with the union asking that an arbitrator settle differences between the two sides.

At issue are planning time, personal leave, safety concerns and, of course, raises.

The $383.4 million operating budget adopted by the Board of Education for the fiscal year beginning July 1 includes no money for cost-of-living raises for school employees -- the third year that teachers would have to go without a pay increase.

"Although we agreed that there would be no cost-of-living increases during both the first and second years of the current contract, we will not agree to ask Anne Arundel educators to work a third year without a reasonable salary adjustment," said Thomas J. Paolino, president of the teachers union.

"I've sat in school board meetings all year and I've heard what a wonderful job the teachers have done and how the board 'really wants to do something for teachers,' but they give all these platitudes and when it's time for negotiations, they want take-backs and rollbacks and more for less."

Mr. Paolino said the board's initial proposal to give teachers more planning time was to add two hours to the work week. That proposal was withdrawn shortly before talks broke down.

Personal leave also is in dispute, he said. Teachers now get two personal days a year that, if unused, can be rolled over into the following year. "They want teachers to use it or lose it," said Mr. Paolino, who contends that making teachers take two days off a year would end up costing the county more than allowing them to bank the days off. "If 4,200 people take off two days a year, that's 8,400 days of work. The substitutes will love it -- at $50 a day that's $400,000."

Negotiations between the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, which represents about 3,800 teachers, and the Board of Education stalled March 10.

But the union waited until yesterday to announce the impasse after sending a joint letter to the state school superintendent, Nancy S. Grasmick, asking her to declare an impasse and send in an arbitrator.

It is the third straight year the agencies have sought Dr. Grasmick's help. If she agrees to the union's request, it would be the second time in three years an arbitrator was needed to settle the contract. Last year's contract was eventually settled without additional help.

Can an arbitrator, who would listen to both sides and then make a decision, help this time? "It's hard to say," said Donna diGrazia, director of staff relations for the county Board of Education. "If he comes in with a million dollars, or several million or money from the sky? Maybe."

Ms. diGrazia noted that the board already has reached tentative agreements with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees local that represents about 1,200 workers and the Secretaries and Assistants Association of Anne Arundel County.

Neither union's contract calls for raises, although both contain clauses that would give them the same pay increase awarded teachers.

The staff relations director said the Board of Education has been meeting with teachers' representatives since October: "Unfortunately we just haven't reached an agreement yet."

Ms. diGrazia said of 53 proposals, negotiators had reached agreement on about 16 issues.

One issue still in dispute is what happens when a student is suspended for violent behavior. The Board of Education now allows that student to transfer to a new school, but tells no one except the principal of the student's history.

"If I know I'm getting a violent student, I'm more likely to keep an eye on him, but if you don't tell me, then I'm not going to be taking precautions," said Mr. Paolino.

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