Teachers protest stalled talks 600 educators attend meeting of school board

April 17, 1997|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

More than 600 teachers packed last night's Anne Arundel County school board meeting to protest what they consider the board's stalling tactics while negotiating a contract with its largest employee union.

With teachers cheering him on, teachers union President John R. Kurpjuweit accused the board of purposely reducing the chance teachers will get a raise this year.

"Your actions indicate that you are trying to stall negotiations so that by the time we settle any fiscal items, it will be too late for teachers to effectively lobby the funding authorities," he said. "In more contemporary language, you have dissed your employees."

Kurpjuweit said that talks began Oct. 3 and that there was no reason for them to continue 195 days except "they are not negotiating seriously" with the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County (TAAAC).

The teachers stood out at the board meeting in white plastic boaters decorated with desk and apple drawings that read, "United for Respect." Many held up computer-generated posters that read, "Show me the Money."

Teacher Mary Dunlap of Shipley's Choice Elementary handed out Sweetarts candies to board members to give them what she called a taste of the sour part of her job -- worrying about money.

Teachers say they want the school board, which has no power to raise money on its own, to approve a raise and help fight for it before the County Council, which will adopt a budget for county government including schools by the end of May.

Salary is the chief issue for the more than 4,000 teachers who have gone two years without a raise. About 20 workplace issues remain unresolved, with teachers saying they are given more responsibilities and larger classes, without compensation.

Kurpjuweit has criticized the Board of Education for proposing to extend teachers' 190-day work year by one day without additional pay.

Union officers complained that an across-the-board raise offer being considered is less than last year's 2 percent gesture and is not keeping pace with the cost of living.

"I hardly consider 1 percent in September plus 2 percent in January plus three additionals evenings and one additional day a fair [cost of living adjustment]," Thomas Paolino, vice president of TAAAC told the board.

A red-faced board President Joseph H. Foster said he was disappointed with Kurpjuweit. "First, Mr. Kurpjuweit misrepresented the facts and, second of all, he is using very offensive language."

As the crowd of teachers groaned, Foster told them that if they could not keep quiet, they should leave.

Last year, the school board approved a 2 percent raise for teachers. But the board stipulated that the raise would take effect only if the County Council approved the rest of the schools' operating budget intact. It did not.

The 1996-1997 teacher pay scale shows a salary range from $24,478 for beginners with a provisional bachelor's degree to $56,935 for a teacher at the top of the scale with a doctorate.

Talks between board negotiators and the teachers union broke down in March.

On April 2, state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick sent the dispute to nonbinding arbitration.

Talks are at impasse with a second school union, the 750-member Secretaries and Assistants of Anne Arundel County. Negotiations with the other two unions are progressing.

Pub Date: 4/17/97

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