School contract talks reach impasse Seniority issue is stumbling block

May 12, 1993|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

The state has officially declared an impasse in contract negotiations between the Carroll County Board of Education and the Carroll Association of School Employees.

Union President Sharon Fischer said she received a letter Saturday from Nancy Grasmick, state superintendent of schools, saying Dr. Grasmick had reviewed the issues and declared negotiations to be at an impasse.

Superintendent R. Edward Shilling and union leaders wrote to Dr. Grasmick last month asking her to declare the impasse. Negotiations broke down April 19, after several meetings since March.

"It's not pay, it's the fair play of the seniority issue," said Mrs. Fischer, an instructional assistant at William Winchester Elementary School.

One of the main issues for the union is to keep seniority as the only criteria for involuntary transfers of instructional assistants, she said.

The union represents secretaries, instructional assistants and licensed practical nurses.

The next step will be for both sides to choose one independent arbiter from the American Arbitration Association.

The school board has had to seek arbitration with the union three times and with teachers twice since 1987, said William Hyde, assistant superintendent for administration.

The cost is shared equally by the unions and by the board, and can range from $500 to several thousand dollars, Mrs. Fischer said, depending on how long it takes to reach agreement.

She said the arbiter first will try to mediate the dispute. If that doesn't work, the arbiter begins a longer process of researching and interviewing both sides, then drafting a list of recommendations, which are not binding.

Mrs. Fischer said she knows of no recent instance in Carroll in which the unions or the board rejected the arbiter's findings.

During negotiations, both sides have at times proposed a 3 percent pay increase each year for the next two years, which is what other school employees negotiated. But the union and the board have never agreed on other issues, mostly affecting seniority and job security.

Edwin Davis, director of pupil services and the board's representative in talks with the union, said the board wants to be able to transfer assistants based on the program they are trained in.

But union members want to retain language that seniority is the main factor for involuntary transfers of teaching assistants.

Also, the union wants to add language that when employees are considered for promotion, the senior employee will get the job if all other qualifications are equal.

Other issues include the appeal process for discipline and discharge of employees, and responsibilities for after-school activities, such as school improvement teams. The teams are made up mostly of teachers, but often include secretaries or assistants.

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