School union change sought

Administrators cut ties with teacher association

Seek different bargaining agent

Howard County

July 05, 2002|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

Howard County school administrators have banded together to pull away from the education association that traditionally represents them at the bargaining table, in hopes of joining a national group that will focus more on their specific needs.

About 175 principals, assistant principals and central office-based instructional facilitators recently formed the Howard County Administrators Association, breaking away from the Howard County Education Association (HCEA), which has represented the system's teachers, secretaries, nurses and other support staff for years.

The administrators hope to have the necessary paperwork worked out to become part of the American Federation of School Administrators, a union with members all over the United States. Until then, the group will represent themselves in this year's round of negotiations.

"It's not personal to HCEA," said Adrianne Kauffman, principal at Reservoir High School, which is opening in the fall. "There's just been a sense that our jobs were changing, a sense that perhaps we needed an organization that would represent our interests as the majority, not the minority."

Kauffman, who has taken on the unofficial role of spokeswoman of the administrators' association, said school leaders have needs peculiar to their position.

Most important, she said, leaders have become increasingly concerned with student instruction and teacher development, not office-based tasks. But no administrative responsibilities have been lifted to allow them to focus on those areas.

"Way back then, the job was very managerial," Kauffman said. "More recently, the expectations have become much more instructional. And that's why we got into this job. We want to be instructional leaders."

Disciplining misbehaving children half the day takes away from focusing on closing the achievement gap, she said. Sitting at a desk scheduling community activities for the school building's off-hours doesn't leave much time for helping new teachers grow.

Instead of spending two hours a day in cafeteria duty, monitoring youngsters, Kauffman said, principals should be doing classroom observations, taking note of which teachers need assistance, or who has particular strengths that could help other teachers.

"One recommendation that we have is that every high school should have a business manager," Kauffman said. "So instead of the principal worrying about fund raising, accounting and maintenance, you have someone else in the building who's doing that, allowing us to focus on instruction."

Compensation is another big issue for Howard's administrators.

Sue Webster, principal at Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School, said leaders would like to be able to have more opportunities for further training and continuing education, but can't always afford to go.

"I want to become a better and better instructional leader," she said. "And so that part of professional development is important to me. You get such a high out of going to national conferences; it's energizing. But many times, you end up paying for much of it yourself. I'd like to take away barriers for people who want to take part in that."

And administrators want fair treatment when it comes to salaries.

"On a teachers' salary scale, if they receive a doctorate, they go up a level [in pay]. When I received my doctorate, I didn't get a penny," Kauffman said. "Our salary scale is very different."

Principals in Howard County earn from $66,610 to $104,261 annually while teachers earn between $33,160 and $72,966 depending on education and longevity.

Improvements in the working conditions of Howard's administrators won't be beneficial only to the school leaders in place, Webster said.

"Quite a few of us are getting ready for retirement and we haven't really had oodles and oodles jumping on the bandwagon to be assistant principals or principals," Webster said.

"When we look down the road to the future, we want to make sure that there are folks who want to become leaders. We want to make sure there's not a gap for the children of Howard County."

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