Party for colonel angers county employees

June 25, 1993|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

Two months after the Anne Arundel County school system said it lacked money for a reception for retiring school workers, officials threw a farewell party for Fort Meade's retiring post commander, angering employee groups stung by a third year of no pay raises.

Union officials said they consider the small gathering for Col. Kent D. Menser, held Wednesday at the Board of Education offices in Annapolis, a slap in the faces of people who make their careers in the county schools.

"We have no money for our own employees, but we have money for a reception for Col. Menser? Oh, come on," said Dee Zepp, president of the Secretaries and Assistants Association of Anne Arundel County.

The sentiment was echoed by Thomas Paolino, president of the largest of the school employee unions, the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County.

"It points up the board's true lack of concern, of appreciation, for their own employees," he said. "He is not a school system employee."

The Army colonel, who has been garrison commander of Fort Meade since 1991, initiated Meade Schools 2000, a much-praised partnership between the base and schools in the Meade feeder system. The post's military and civilian personnel serve as mentors, volunteers and tutors, and the post has donated excess supplies. Principals of those schools suggested the farewell recognition.

The brief finger-food reception for Colonel Menser cost $300 to $400 dollars, said school budget officer Jack White. It was held before Wednesday's school board meeting -- a session attended by more than 200 people from the four school unions angling for raises. The board decided against awarding raises when it adopted its budget that night.

School system spokeswoman Jane Doyle said the Menser reception was attended by about 40 people. It was catered through the Board of Education's cafeteria.

"It's not how much money they spent," Mr. Paolino said. "That is not the issue. The issue is that they could not do something for their own employees, but they found the money for a reception for someone who is not a school system employee."

School Superintendent C. Berry Carter II said he plans for the school system to resume the receptions for retiring employees, which it stopped last year when budget constraints curtailed many extras.

"Until the very last minute, I was not aware that we were not supporting financially the retired teachers' affair," he said. "I don't want that to happen again."

About 96 school workers retired this year and about 83 last year.

Jean Trott, a past president of the Anne Arundel County Retired Teachers Association, said the organization understood when administrators said the school system did not have the money for a party.

"We understood; we didn't push it," she said.

The $700 the group had to put up toward a farewell reception would have made for a very small party, so she asked the employee unions to help out. They did. The May 26 reception for 350 people at the Holiday Inn cost $2,500, Mr. Paolino said.

Ms. Trott credited the school system with mailing the invitations, noting the RSVPs and helping with arrangements, but said she had no comment on the reception for Col. Menser.

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