Arundel schools weigh salary policy change

Criticism spurs plan for public votes on raises

January 28, 2004|By Laura Loh | Laura Loh,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County's school board - stung by criticism that it privately approved raises for 30 high-level administrators, including Superintendent Eric J. Smith - is considering a policy change that would require it to take a public vote before adjusting salaries for any group of employees.

The board's decision to grant 1 percent midyear raises to Smith and his senior staff has been questioned in recent weeks by County Council members, who are reviewing a board request to appropriate nearly $1.9 million in school funds for cost-of-living raises for about 8,000 employees.

The board voted unanimously, with one member absent, in a closed session Dec. 3 to approve raises for the senior staff members and about 235 other central administration employees not represented by unions, board President Paul Rudolph and others said.

The state's Open Meetings Act says that decision-making bodies must openly deliberate matters of public policy, except in a few circumstances. The law allows such groups to discuss personnel matters in closed meetings, but not matters involving classes of employees.

"We didn't do it upfront, and we will have to see that in the future we're more public with that," Rudolph said, adding that he plans to introduce a motion to create the new policy at a meeting next week.

The Anne Arundel school board's private vote follows several other closed-meeting controversies involving Baltimore-area school boards.

School boards in Baltimore and Howard counties have come under fire in the past two years for trying to skirt open-meetings laws to discuss matters ranging from the budget to superintendents' contracts.

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