Carroll teachers decline job action

Union majority too slim for countywide sanction of work-to-rule efforts

October 10, 2002|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

The union representing Carroll County teachers will not support a countywide "work-to-contract" job action, union officials said yesterday after the membership failed to vote in sufficient numbers to expand protests already in place at several schools.

In announcing the results of the vote, union leaders said a committee of teachers and school administrators would begin meeting next week to explore issues raised by teachers who have launched work-to-rule protests at at least 12 Carroll schools.

Sixty percent of the teachers polled by the 1,450-member Carroll County Education Association said they would support an expansion of the job action, in which teachers are boycotting extracurricular activities to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with working conditions.

But union officials had said they would back a countywide protest only if three-quarters of the membership approved.

"We're a democratic organization. When we make broad statements it's important we know we're speaking for a vast majority. But we didn't reach that threshold," said union official Hal Fox.

Work-to-contract demonstrations already in place will likely continue, said Cindy Wheeler, president of the Carroll County Education Association.

"We had very strong support in some schools," she said.

"We want the public to understand we are facing some educational issues and working conditions that are affecting the quality of instruction for our students. These things need to be addressed."

County schools Superintendent Charles I. Ecker said he was encouraged by the results of the vote, and said he expects the committee to come up with answers.

"This is a hopeful sign. Teachers see that we're sincere about trying to find out their issues," he said. "I hope the committee will specify and resolve their issues."

The committee, to be made up of 10 teachers and four administrators, will meet Monday to begin drafting a report to identify teachers' specific concerns and recommend solutions, Fox said. That committee report is to go to the teachers union and the school board by Oct. 24, he added.

He said possible solutions include eliminating some standardized tests or adding support staff to schools.

"We are willing to take steps to resolve this constructively. But we're also tired of endless promises and no action taken," he said.

Claire Kwiatkowski, president of the county council of PTAs, said the formation of the committee was a hopeful sign, but she said parents feel conflicted about the teachers' protest.

"We've been saying for years the teachers are completely overloaded, but teachers should do something else that doesn't affect kids," she said.

Last week, the union sent out memos asking teachers at all schools to support a countywide work-to-rule 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 work-to-rule action, the first of its type in Carroll in at least 20 years, began in August at Linton Springs Elementary in Eldersburg.

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