School board members ask for pay raise

Increase from $9,900 to $12,000 a year goes to legislative group

`We think we're worth it'

Panel votes against proposal to adopt district elections

November 12, 1999|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

The Howard County Board of Education wants to be paid more money for overseeing the 43,000-student school system.

At last night's board meeting, members voted to support a proposal that would raise their annual compensation from $9,900 to $12,000. Under the proposal, the board chairman would be paid $14,000, an increase of $2,000.

Board members asked the county's state legislative delegation to sponsor the bill, saying the raise was overdue.

"The workload has more than doubled," said board Chairwoman Karen B. Campbell, who has been on the panel since 1986. "For one thing, there are 20 more schools than there were in 1986, and the student body has increased by almost 20,000."

Campbell said she earned $6,000 a year as a board member in 1986. In 1994, she said, the board asked for twice that amount, but was granted a raise of $3,000. The board got a 10 percent raise in 1995.

Campbell estimated that board members work about 20 hours a week on school business.

"It's a hugely expanded job," she said, "and we just think that we're worth it."

The board also voted to support a bill drafted by Howard Republican state Sen. Christopher J. McCabe that would create a commission to review and recommend salaries for board members and Howard's sheriff, state's attorney and Orphans' Court judges. The measure could be introduced in the legislature in January.

"We can't vote ourselves a pay raise," Campbell said, "and we can't even vote a raise for the next board. The commission would be able to do that."

School Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said the raises and the commission were good ideas.

"They [board members] would like to have a more systematic way of having [their salaries] looked at, without them having to go out and ask for it," Hickey said. "It is embarrassing, and people are always critical of them for doing that, but currently that's the only mechanism they have, which is to go out and seek [a raise]."

Board member Laura Waters said colleagues do not watch a clock when doing official business, but all would like to be better compensated for their work.

"It's not just the hours, it's the responsibility of it," Waters said. "It's responsibility for the future, and anyone who's responsible for the future has a job that's hard."

The board also opposed three bills drafted by Democratic Del. Frank S. Turner that could be introduced in the legislature.

One measure would establish election districts for the election of board members, beginning in 2002. Board members are now elected countywide.

"I believe that that would have the effect of parochializing and politicizing this office," said board member Stephen C. Bounds.

Another measure would require that a county police officer be assigned to each middle school and high school from one hour before until one hour after the regular school day. In addition, a county police officer would be required at any official school activity.

Board members said the school system already has police officers at many high schools and plans to have them at all secondary schools soon.

"We don't need a state law telling us that that's OK," Bounds said.

Hickey said "there's no need to take officers off the street and put them in middle schools, which are peaceful, quiet places."

The third bill would authorize the board to negotiate a representation fee for certified employees, who elect not to join education associations, such as the Maryland State Teachers Association, the National Education Association or the Howard County Education Association.

Members of the Howard County Education Association pay dues to the local, state and national organizations. Together, the groups negotiate salaries, benefits and working conditions, provide for contract enforcement and promote the welfare of members. Nonmembers also enjoy benefits won by the association.

The representation fee would require nonmembers to pay a fee for the work the association does on their behalf.

"That's just one more thing to clutter up the negotiations table," Campbell said.

The county legislative delegation will hold a public hearing Nov. 18 to discuss the proposed bills. If approved by the delegation, the bills will be introduced in the General Assembly in January.

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