Teacher task force `making progress'

2 1/2 -hour meeting covers job condition complaints

Panel members mum on specifics

October 15, 2002|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

After meeting for 2 1/2 hours yesterday to discuss ways to improve working conditions for Carroll County public school teachers, members of a task force appointed to consider teacher complaints reported making progress.

Members shared little else, however, about the session at the school district's administrative offices yesterday afternoon.

"We worked on identifying teacher concerns and issues ... and we've made some progress," said Gregory Bricca, the school system's assessment and accountability supervisor and task force co-chairman. "But I hesitate to share those concerns, not knowing what's going forward."

Cindy Wheeler, president of the Carroll County Education Association, the local teachers union, was similarly tight-lipped.

"It went very well. Our task today was to discuss issues teachers had brought up, so we're making progress," she said. "That's our official statement - we're making progress."

Asked to elaborate on specific topics of discussion, Bricca and Wheeler demurred.

"We've decided we'd prefer not to go into that because nothing is finalized," said Wheeler, who is not a member of the task force but attended the meeting as an observer. "We'd rather wait until we have a report to the [school] board."

The committee of 10 teachers and four administrators expects to have a preliminary report by Oct. 24.

A half-dozen task force members did not respond to phone messages left at their homes yesterday evening.

The 14-member panel of teachers and school administrators was named last week after the local teachers union failed to win support for a countywide work-to-rule job action that would have expanded protests at at least 12 schools. The union said it would support the broader action if three-quarters of its 1,450 members voted to do so.

Sixty percent voted to boycott extracurricular activities and before- and after-school duties for which teachers are not paid. But union leaders and school officials decided the concerns of the hundreds who did vote to work to rule warranted further attention.

Although most work-to-rule job actions occur during contract negotiations, providing leverage in the quest for higher salaries, teachers at a dozen Carroll schools have been working more closely to the terms of their contracts after the union ratified a new employment agreement last month.

Their protest, many teachers say, is rooted in a fight for better working conditions and more influence on policy-making, not necessarily more money.

They complain of too little time to plan lessons, grade papers and keep up with the ever-growing stack of administrative paperwork required of teachers. They bemoan federal, state and local curriculum requirements - and the accompanying tests - that have been layered on without abandoning assessments and lessons that are no longer needed. They complain about too little classroom technology and too few secretaries and clerical assistants to help with the noninstructional tasks in teachers' days.

Bricca said it would be the task force's job to take those nebulous concerns and whittle them into a list of issues and recommendations to which the school board and union can respond. The group is scheduled to meet again Monday. Their schedule after that has not been decided, Bricca said.

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