Krebs says plan is fair

School board president says teachers are too late

`Bargaining in bad faith'

Union representative calls comments `disrespectful'

August 16, 2002|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

A day after more than 100 teachers crowded the Carroll school board meeting in a show of disappointment and anger over their tentative contract agreement, school board President Susan W. Krebs shot back yesterday, saying it was too late for them to voice their opinions.

Krebs said the contract offer was "more than fair."

"To have all those people come [Wednesday] night after we have a signed tentative agreement amounts to bargaining in bad faith," she said yesterday.

Krebs compared the teachers who showed up at the school board meeting to "a spoiled kid who wants both pieces of candy, can't have both and whines about it."

She also criticized union leaders, blaming them for causing "the morale problem in the county" by focusing on "the doom and gloom."

Hal Fox, a representative of the Carroll County Education Association, the local teachers union, defended his members' right to attend the board's public meeting.

He said the union mailed flyers to its 1,400 members last week inviting them to "stand up" for their rights.

"We have an obligation to inform our members, so we informed them of the board meeting -- the last public meeting prior to them coming back to school -- and gave them the opportunity to ... attend and say something," Fox said.

Responding to her comparison of teachers to spoiled children, he added, "Mrs. Krebs is very misinformed to make such a disrespectful comment about 1,900 extremely dedicated people.

"To call them spoiled, given the hundreds of extra hours they've put in voluntarily every single day of the school year and summer, is to further exacerbate a terrible morale problem. ... She really doesn't get it."

Krebs said the 115 teachers who showed up at the meeting should have attended the county commissioners' budget hearing May 31. Back then, a crowd of school employees might have persuaded the commissioners to resist cutting $5.5 million from the board's budget request.

She acknowledged that the May meeting -- scheduled with four days' notice for a Friday night when meteorologists issued a tornado warning for Carroll County -- was "poor timing."

"But I made it and [Superintendent] Chuck [Charles I. Ecker] made it because it was important to us," Krebs said. "The union got everyone to come out on short notice for our meeting. If it was important enough, they could have been at the budget meeting."

She bristled at one teacher's suggestion Wednesday night that board members seem to dislike teachers.

"I take this personally because I gave up my career for this. I had a good job, and I gave it all up for four years to work on education. My life has been this ..., so to say I don't care, that's crap," said Krebs, who ran a home-based accounting firm for 12 years and worked part time at a consulting firm before quitting her job in January 2001 when her board colleagues elected her president.

"Say you don't like the [contract] agreement, but when you attack a board member, that hurts. It's rude. And it's unprofessional," she said. "It makes me feel like saying, `Screw you, teachers.'"

Krebs, who won her first campaign for school board in 1998, is not seeking re-election. She is one of six Republicans running for the newly created South Carroll seat to the state House of Delegates.

Many teachers who spoke Wednesday said they felt unappreciated by board members who chose to use the school system's limited budget increase from the county to hire new staff, rather than pay for 3 percent raises negotiated in earlier, tentative contract agreements.

After a round of renegotiations and talks with a mediator, the school board and teachers' union tentatively agreed this week to raises of 4 percent over a two-year period. The contract proposal goes before union members for consideration.

Asked whether this year's negotiations have soured her last few months on the board, Krebs said, "It's just frustrating. I don't want to tell people to leave our school system, but if you're that unhappy, go somewhere else. Go to Howard County. Go to Baltimore County. I had two people call me who didn't even get interviews with our system just begging to be hired. So this is still an attractive place to work."

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