Principals to sue for pay raise

August 22, 1994|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Sun Staff Writer

The president of the Anne Arundel County school board says he still can't believe the principals union chose to file a lawsuit instead of negotiating differences over a longevity pay raise.

"The last thing we want is to be in court. We want a quick decision," said Michael A. Pace, the board president. The motion for declaratory judgment will be filed today, he said.

Mr. Pace, a former union member, said he and other board members were "saddened" that the Association of Educational Leaders, which represents 250 principals and administrators, wouldn't even come to the bargaining table on the issue.

"They're our front line," he said.

Richard Kovelant, the president of the union, could not be reached for comment, but in earlier interviews he said there is "an arrogance" in the board's decision.

"This is going to have no effect on the instruction program, but they tout this as something that's going to benefit the school system," Mr. Kovelant said. "No. It goes to the benefit of the bureaucracy. They've already been interviewing lawyers for a $75,000 position."

In addition to the lawsuit, the board faces two grievances filed by the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County and a "work-to-rule" protest that has school secretaries refusing overtime.

John R. Kurpjuweit, the teacher's union president, said the teachers also are considering filing a lawsuit to recover pay for furlough days. The union had filed suit once before and dropped it in exchange for a 2 percent raise in January, the 4 percent raise in July and the longevity raise, he said.

The labor problems began in June when the school board asked the principals, teachers, secretaries and maintenance workers unions to renegotiate a promised longevity raise because the County Council approved an operating budget of $408 million instead of $444 million.

Mr. Pace said that had the longevity raise been granted, some principals would have gotten a pay raise of almost 18 percent.

"Since most county parents and taxpayers have not enjoyed a raise of this magnitude due to the economy, we believed it was not unreasonable to treat this extra raise enhancement as a legitimate negotiation item given the overall budget cuts and the fact that some modification had to be made," Mr. Pace said.

The school board already has laid off 40 permanent substitute personnel, he said.

The unions say the school board can only renegotiate when the council refuses to put money into a specific budget category. Having earmarked $1.7 million from health care and more money from other budget cuts to cover the $3.2 million cost of the longevity raise means the council fully funded that category, union leaders say.

"The problem is the council does not have the authority to tell us how to spend the money," Mr. Pace said. "Let's assume we sent over a budget and the council gave us half . . . but said you have to give all employees a raise. Obviously we couldn't do that."

Walter N. Chitwood III, an assistant superintendent for administration and former chief of staff for the county executive, said Maryland law does not allow the council to dictate how money will be spent.

"In essence, they expressed a desire to fund longevity, but they really did not fund the full request made in that category, which gives us the right to renegotiate," he said.

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