Union issues call to action

Memos urge teachers to work to contracts in a show of unity

Decrying working conditions

Superintendent Ecker calls move irresponsible

October 02, 2002|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

Carroll County's teachers union will ask its members to support a countywide demonstration of their dissatisfaction with working conditions, following the lead of teachers who have begun boycotting after-school activities for which they are not paid, union officials said last night.

Memos asking teachers to join a work-to-rule action as part of a "show of unity" are to begin circulating in county schools today, said Hal Fox of the Carroll County Education Association. Faculties at schools would be allowed to determine how they would carry out their protests, and no teacher would be pressured to conform to the job action.

"Actions may range from strict adherence to requirements of the contract, to simply starting and/or ending the regular workday at the prescribed time(s), to declining to volunteer for activities which take place outside the contracted day," the memo reads.

The memo includes a ballot, and a request that teachers vote on the proposal by Tuesday. Three-quarters of the membership of about 2,000 would have to vote to work to rule for the union to support a countywide action, Fox said.

Union officials said yesterday that they hope for a show of solidarity that would demonstrate to the school board and administrators that teachers no longer feel they can do all that is expected of them in a normal workweek.

"We've heard the promises for years now, and I don't think the board has done anything to make a more workable situation in the schools," Fox said.

Carroll Superintendent Charles I. Ecker called the union's actions irresponsible.

"I'm surprised by what the union has done because normally, a work to rule is used only when a contract has not been ratified," Ecker said. "I don't know why they would call for a work to rule when a contract has just been ratified by 80 percent of their members."

Ecker said he hopes the union will form a committee of five to seven members who could meet with administrators and present specific demands.

"So far, all we've heard are generalities such as, `We're not appreciated,'" he said.

Fox said teachers would like the county to pare its roster of tests and offer more compensation for supervision of extracurricular activities.

He said the union will sit down with administrators to discuss requests.

The release of the union memo yesterday followed long meetings Thursday and Monday at which representatives from the union asked their Crisis Committee - formed several months ago after contract talks with the school board collapsed - to define "working to rule."

The work-to-rule job action began at Linton Springs Elementary in August and has spread to at least 10 other Carroll schools, Fox said.

Upset with their workload and the way one tentative contract agreement broke down and a deal with lesser raises was made, some teachers decided to work more closely to the terms of their contracts and refuse before- and after-school activities.

The job action, the first of its type in Carroll in at least 20 years, has left clubs without advisers and required parents to fill in as chaperons and ticket-takers at dances and athletic events.

Many extracurricular activities have proceeded.

Sports and dramatic productions have been unaffected because coaches and drama teachers are paid extra for supervising those activities.

But parents and students have said the actions have upset school life.

Last week, nearly three dozen North Carroll High School students told school board members that the work-to-rule job action had made their days less fulfilling and threatened their college careers by eliminating or scaling back extracurricular activities.

The job actions occur about a month after union members overwhelmingly approved a contract that included the equivalent of a 4 percent raise over the next two years on top of automatic pay increases teachers receive as they move up the salary scale, boosting the starting teacher's salary to $32,320 this year and $33,289 next year.

Teachers at the top of the scale - those with 30 years' experience, a master's degree and 60 additional credits of graduate coursework - will earn $65,527 this year and $67,493 the year after.

The average Carroll teacher earns $46,840 a year.

But the conflict revolves around more than money, union representatives said.

"All this fuss just because we're working to our contracts is ludicrous," said union President Cindy Wheeler.

"We should not be expected to do all of these things in the course of a normal week," she said.

Sun staff writer Jennifer McMenamin contributed to this article.

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