It's Not Just Money, It's Respect
Teachers at MacArthur Middle School are extremely concerned with the lack of respect being shown us by the Board of Education. We would expect the board to show some amount of appreciation for what we do in the classroom.
By the tenor of the negotiations, this is apparently not the case. In the past, we have made concessions with respect to economics, even agreeing to no raise in salary when it was clear that fiscal limitations would not permit one. The board has adopted "Goals 2000 for Anne Arundel County Schools," but does not seem to want to give the staff the peace of mind with which to concentrate on achieving these goals.
Health care is a benefit that is basic to the well-being of any family. Last year, changes were made to the program's premium structure that results in a savings to the board of $1 million in health care costs in a six-month period. Next year, with the plan in place for the entire year, $2 million in savings will result. To strip away the option of traditional health care, to ask us to pay more for less, can only be described as cruel.
The idea of instituting a salary freeze is, in itself, counterproductive if Anne Arundel schools wish to remain competitive in the education market. . . . To the veteran staff who have been providing sound education to the students of the county, a salary freeze says that the board has little or no regard for the knowledge, creativity, patience and dedication these people continue to show. Adding to this the proposal of a longer school day and school year without additional compensation is downright insulting. . . .
The willingness to reach agreement on many other issues seems to be an attempt by the Board of Education to simply disregard the professional staff. We are college-educated professional educators who expect to have our performance evaluated. It is a necessary component if quality instruction is to be maintained, but language must be in place if both the evaluator and teacher are to know what is expected. Not guaranteeing a place for teachers on curriculum committees is ludicrous. It is the teachers who have the practical, hands-on experience, and who will have to institute any future curriculum changes.
As teachers, we constantly re-evaluate what we do in the classroom. We strive to produce the best from our students, and we deal with the many problems presented by the differing environments from which our students come. . . . Hiring a consultant at $175 per hour to simply say "no" to proposals put forth by the teachers shows a complete lack of regard for the time, effort and caring shown everyday by teachers in Anne Arundel County.
Michael D. Markowitz
This letter was also signed by 34 other members of the faculty of MacArthur Middle School, Fort Meade.
We are writing to express our frustration over the Board of Education's positions during this year's contract negotiations. We are working harder than ever to ensure quality education for our students. Recent test scores prove our efforts are paying off. The board is obviously ignoring our efforts or it would not have taken punitive positions to the negotiations table. The ones that most concern us are:
* Health care: Our plan is better and less expensive than the plan for county employees. The new conversion plan that went into effect is saving money. We are committed to working hard to preserve our benefits and do not want good educators to leave our system because health care benefits are reduced.
* Planning time: In the middle school, we are spending an average of 10 hours a week over our required contract language to meet the needs of our students and plan for our classes. Guarantee us adequate planning time.
* Deletion of language ensuring teacher work areas and restrooms: This seems especially ludicrous to us considering we are recovering from the stigma caused by the actions of one teacher. We should be accorded the respect any other adult receives in their workplace.
The board wants to strip everything we have worked hard for over many years. We are striving to improve our students' futures. . . . The board should show us it wants to help us do our jobs by reconsidering its positions at the bargaining table.
This letter was signed by 34 other faculty members at George Fox Middle School, Pasadena.
Stewardship of a Monument
As the owners of the Frederick Douglass Summer Home in Highland Beach, we suggest the following clarifications to your editorial, "Haven for History in Highland Beach" (March 20).
The asking price for the sale of the home to the state is fair market value only, not the reported $600,000. The state has not yet appraised the home for acquisition. When this appraisal is completed, we believe it will reflect the fair market value.
The state has appraised the property for tax assessment purposes. It is not uncommon for the state tax appraisal to vary from market value. . . . The state tax assessor has a very difficult task . . . because practically no comparable bayfront homes in Highland Beach have ever transferred out of the prominent African-American families that built them. . . . When we restored the home from near collapse in 1986, our priority was to save the home that Frederick Douglass built so that "as a free man, I could look across the bay to the land where I was born a slave."
. . . Now it is time for the home to be in the hands of the larger community, accessible for educational purposes, and as a monument to one of Maryland's most important native sons.
harles H. Bohl
Barbara V. Bohl