School board OKs contracts with 2 unions

Food and janitorial staff, bus drivers get 3% raises

Talks with teachers at impasse

Representatives getting prepared for arbitration

Carroll County

July 11, 2002|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

The Carroll Board of Education signed contract agreements last night with two of five employee unions, awarding 3 percent raises to cafeteria workers, maintenance staff, custodians and bus drivers while preparing to go to arbitration with the teachers union.

Negotiators for the Carroll County Education Association have rejected a new contract offer from the school board for the county's 1,800 teachers, prompting state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick to declare an impasse Tuesday.

Members of the Carroll Association of School Employees, which represents about 500 secretaries, clerks, nurses and instructional assistants, are waiting to hear whether Grasmick will declare an impasse in their negotiations as well.

Hal Fox, who represents CCEA and CASE, congratulated the school district's 170-member food services union and the 290-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees last night on winning the raises they had bargained and ratified under tentative contract agreements.

"They do deserve it," Fox told the school board. "But no more so than the 2,236 employees I represent who are left standing there with no expectation of remuneration while they face increased expectations in their workload."

The contracts expired July 1.

The school board had reached tentative contract agreements in the spring with four of its five bargaining units that would have increased salaries 3 percent for each of the next two years, while requiring employees to pay more of ballooning health care costs and capping the number of sick days they could cash out at retirement.

The board backed away from those tentative agreements last month, voting to eliminate all but about $2.7 million of the $6.6 million that had been set aside for raises. Instead, board members approved about $2.6 million in new staff and programs to finalize their $206.9 million budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 and made cuts to bring their spending plan in line with county budget allocations.

Stephen Guthrie, assistant superintendent of administration and one of the board's chief negotiators, said the board chose to honor AFSCME's tentative agreement because the union was the only one to meet the superintendent's deadline to have contracts negotiated by the Feb. 27 budget hearing.

The food services contract was not affected by the board's budget cuts because its funding is not dependent on county allocations.

Negotiators for the district's administrative and supervisory bargaining unit are working on a contract.

Both Guthrie and Fox declined to describe the contract offer rejected by the teachers' union.

CASE President Sharon Fischer said her negotiators refused the school board's offer of a 2 percent raise this year, which would not have gone into effect until January, and a 3 percent raise next year. The board also offered to delay capping the sick leave payout until next year.

"I asked how they could guarantee a 3 percent raise next year when our contract says that raises are dependent on funding from the county commissioners," Fischer said. "We just couldn't accept it. We have people who are single parents holding down several jobs, so I don't know what's going to happen."

Grasmick's decision to declare an impasse with the teachers union allows board and union representatives to meet with a professional arbitrator. If they cannot work out an agreement, the mediator will recommend a nonbinding contract to the school board, which can adopt the proposal or impose a different contract on the union.

John L. Lynam, who has taught science at North Carroll High for 27 of his 30 years in education, warned the board what might happen if the tentative contract is not honored.

"I'm sure you've heard the phrase `work to rule,' " he said. "Translated, it means if you don't pay for it, you don't get it."

For Lynam, that means he won't attend the Advanced Placement workshop he was supposed to attend and pay the $600 registration and expenses himself. He also won't spend the $600 he typically spends each year on classroom supplies and materials not covered by the school budget. He suggested teachers won't volunteer for all after-school and weekend activities that schools ask teachers to supervise and chaperon.

"You've taken our raises and justified it by reducing class sizes by 0.86 students," Lynam said. "Now, my class size will be 31 instead of 32. If I take that student back, will you give me my raise back?"

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