Teacher panel to deliver report

Ecker, union expected to get update tomorrow

Work-to-rule action

October 22, 2002|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Members of a task force appointed to discuss ways to improve working conditions for Carroll County public school teachers met for a second time yesterday, categorizing teacher complaints and recommending a timeline for school officials to address them.

Gregory Bricca, co-chairman of the task force and the school system's assessment and accountability supervisor, plans to get a progress report to Carroll schools Superintendent Charles I. Ecker and teachers union President Cindy Wheeler tomorrow.

It will summarize the notes and charts the group prepared yesterday and at a meeting last week.

"Our plan is to submit what we have accomplished and update them on our progress, at which point we'll take stock of where we are and make some decisions about where we need to go from there," Bricca said.

Bricca declined to discuss specific details of the meeting.

"We've begun the process of narrowing down the issues," he said. "But I would rather not [get into details] until we have a final report ready to go. While we're still collecting ideas and pulling information together, everything is still on the table until we're ready to make final decisions."

Been `productive'

The group's meetings have not been marred by the contention, frustration and bitterness that made this year's contract negotiations long and difficult and that prompted a work-to-rule protest, Bricca and Wheeler said.

"Everyone agreed that everything accomplished [by the task force] was done in a very friendly, conscientious, sincere and thorough manner," said Wheeler of the Carroll County Education Association. "It's been very productive."

The panel of 10 teachers and four school administrators was named this month 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. Union leaders and school officials decided the concerns of the hundreds who did vote to work to rule warranted further attention.

Sign of protests

Although most work-to-rule job actions occur during contract negotiations, providing leverage in the quest for higher salaries, teachers at at least a dozen Carroll schools continue to work more closely to the terms of their contracts this school year, even 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.

Hope for resolve

Stephen Guthrie, the school district's assistant superintendent for administration, said he hopes the task force can identify the problems and propose alternatives that are within the control of the local school board.

"We hope we can address them in a way that's satisfactory to everybody, and in a way that ultimately would lead to an end to the labor dispute currently in progress," he said.

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