County teachers protest pay rate

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Thoughts on issues relating to Anne Arundel County

April 24, 2005

Last week's question: After state education officials declared contract negotiations at an impasse, the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County voted last week to "work to rule" - performing all duties required by their contract during the regular workday but no longer volunteering time for tutoring or extracurricular activities for which they are not paid.

Union officials requested the impasse designation because they say proposed cost-of-living increases fall far below what neighboring jurisdictions are offering. School officials say they would like to offer more, but they would need more county funds.

Should teachers "work to rule" when they feel their pay is too low, compared with other jurisdictions?

`Work to rule' protest an ineffective tactic

Teachers should not "work to rule" as a form of protest simply because it is ineffective and completely unrealistic. Our contract may say we work 6.75 hours a day, but it also says we must provide constructive lessons, grade assignments in a timely manner, perform duties as assigned by the administration, attend meetings and do paperwork.

I am a member of TAAAC, yet I was in my school four-and-a-half hours after contract time simply to grade papers and prepare for the next day's lessons. I, and most of my colleagues, simply cannot perform all our contractual and professional obligations to the students within that 6.75-hour timeframe. "Work to rule" is an empty threat. If we want equitable pay, this is not the way to get it.

Kathleen Wright Anne Arundel County teacher Severn

Best teachers will go to other districts

"Working to rule" means fulfilling your job requirements and choosing not to work for free. In any other job, extra work means extra pay; for some reason, this is not true of teachers. Teachers are expected to sign their names to one contract but work to some unwritten contract. Many teachers work three or four hours beyond their scheduled times just to keep up with the workload.

I love my students and love teaching, but there has to be a breaking point. The educational system would collapse if teachers were to simply follow the contract. Committees wouldn't meet. Parent-teacher conferences wouldn't happen. Grading would take weeks. The teachers are not unreasonable. They didn't become teachers for the money. At the end of the day, they just want to be paid a living wage.

As a young teacher with a degree from an excellent college, I can't even afford my rent, much less live comfortably. I could have taken one of those high-paying jobs, but I like my kids and care about what happens to them. If the salary controversy is not settled, you will see huge increases in provisionally and emergency-certified teachers in high-impact areas like math, science and English simply because new teachers have no reason to interview here. It is already happening.

The teachers are doing what they can to help the kids avoid being stuck with poorly trained teachers while other counties get the good teachers. They are trying to stay and work within the system, but when the system, meaning the board, refuses to even negotiate on a multitude of issues or even put forth good-faith effort in the process, why should teachers work more hours for less pay than their contracts say?

The ones being hurt are not just the teachers. Rather, this entire community suffers when the teachers are burnt out, unhappy and underpaid. I love my job, but I am not sure how long I can afford to live like this.

Christina Bowman Arundel High School teacher Annapolis

We want your opinions

ISSUE: The Annapolis Public Housing Authority lost its third director in three years with the recent resignation of Harry D. Sewell. A city community activist, Dennis Conti, has been selected as the interim director. The process of naming a permanent replacement for what's referred to as Annapolis' toughest job -- to oversee the city's 10 public housing projects -- could take months, officials said. Some city leaders say the lack of consistent leadership within the housing authority is impeding the agency's progress in rehabilitating some of the oldest housing projects in Maryland.

YOUR VIEW: What should be done to encourage stable leadership within the housing authority?

Tell us what you think at by Thursday. Please keep your responses short, and include your name, address and phone number. A selection will be published Sunday.

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