Principals sue to get pay raises

August 19, 1994|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Sun Staff Writer

Anne Arundel County's school principals have sued the Board of Education for breach of contract by attempting to withhold promised longevity raises.

"It's past the time they can open negotiations, and legally they don't have a leg to stand on," said Richard I. Kovelant, president of the 250-member Association of Educational Leaders (AEL), which represents principals and administrators.

"It's a contract dispute, and the one guy who didn't ratify the contract -- Michael Pace -- is now leading the charge to violate the contract," Mr. Kovelant added. "Talk about sore losers."

AEL is seeking to have the contract and raise upheld in full in its suit filed Wednesday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

The longevity raise, worth about $3.2 million, was to have taken effect July 1, but has been withheld while the school board, with Mr. Pace as its new president, tried to bring the four employee unions back to the bargaining table.

The school board says it can't give the raise because the County Council provided only $408 million instead of the $444 million requested for education. But the council cut several proposed positions from the budget and shifted $1.7 million from health care to cover the raise. The unions, in an unusual show of solidarity, have refused to reopen bargaining.

Mr. Pace, citing a state law he says "muzzles" the school board, said the board will not comment on the situation.

In protest over the board's actions, members of the Secretaries and Assistants Association of Anne Arundel County have started to refuse to work overtime -- something they say could create havoc when school opens in about a week.

"In the summer, secretaries can log an unbelievable amount of overtime," said Dee Zepp, union president. "The principals, fortunately, are supporting us, and what is not done is not done when school opens."

Class schedules and parent and student handbooks, for instance, might not be ready in some schools for the Aug. 29 opening, she said.

Ms. Zepp said her union negotiators walked out on school board representatives recently, after they suggested the employees wait until April to get the longevity raise.

"If they're going to have the money in April, they have the money now," said Ms. Zepp. "The issue now isn't over whether we get longevity, the issue is they've broken a contract and they don't care.

"If I can't trust you on July 1 with a written contract, why would I trust you in April?"

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents maintenance and other workers, also has declined to renegotiate.

Earlier this week, John R. Kurpjuweit, president of the 4,000-member Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, told the board that only once in 25 years has it received exactly the amount sought from the council.

"The mere fact that your budget request was cut has never been a reason to renegotiate funded items in over a quarter of century of bargaining," Mr. Kurpjuweit said.

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