School salary upgrade sought

Support personnel pay raise is needed, consultants say

Howard County

June 09, 2000|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

Consultants have recommended that the Howard County school system upgrade job classifications for many employees, enabling them to earn higher salaries.

The employees who would be affected include educational support personnel who the consultants originally said did not qualify for upgrades.

Bob Lazarewicz, director of operations for the school system, presented the recommendations to the school board last night, but noted that if central office administrators approve the upgrades, they will have to determine when - and how - to fund them.

Lazarewicz estimated the cost of the upgrades would be about $3 million.

The recommendations alone are being viewed as a victory by support personnel who stand to benefit from the changes.

Educational support personnel - or ESP employees - include health and science assistants, guidance office secretaries, principals' secretaries, teachers' secretaries, media specialists and instructional assistants.

In March, consultants from Human Resources Systems Group Inc. originally recommended that only principals' secretaries be upgraded.

Immediately afterward, support personnel rallied in opposition to the recommendations, appearing at board meetings en masse, wearing ribbons and filing with the consultants more than 1,200 appeals.

The new recommendations suggest that instructional assistants, teachers' secretaries, guidance secretaries, media secretaries, health assistants, media assistants, science lab assistants, and specific clerks and counselors, among others, receive upgrades - most from one to two levels on the district's salary scale.

The upgrades would mean raises of between $1 and $1.50 an hour, depending on experience.

"We're pleased with the new recommendations," said Cheryl McLeod, a Howard County Education Association director who represents the ESP groups. "It appears to us that they did pay attention to all the appeals for the people we represent."

Joe Staub, president of Howard County Education Association, said the recommendations, if approved and budgeted, will help the district stay competitive.

"Instructional assistants, for example, are critical to delivering services in the classroom," Staub said. "And improving their salary will help us in attracting and also retaining quality individuals. The teachers rely on those people."

Lazarewicz said the board may be able to include funding for the upgrades in the fiscal year 2002, which begins July 2001.

The recommended upgrades came from a classification and compensation study the consultant group started last summer, evaluating whether certain positions in the district were in line for an upgrade.

ESP employees asked the district to do the study because it was overdue, McLeod said. The last time jobs were evaluated for reclassification was in 1986.

"It's not even so much the money as it is the acknowledgement that what they do now is extremely significant, particularly as compared to what they did 15 to 20 years ago," McLeod said.

In other business, the board voted to raise beginning teachers' salaries from $29,006 to $31,050 a year beginning in the fall, boosting Howard's ranking from 10th to sixth among Maryland counties.

The board had hoped to be ranked fifth in the state.

Also last night, the board voted not to raise school lunch prices next year.

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