Contract for teachers `insulting'

Union head assails school system's proposal

40 members hold rally as board meets

April 25, 2007|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,Sun reporter

The head of the Baltimore Teachers Union called the city school system's contract proposal for teachers and aides "insulting, degrading and downright disrespectful" last night as about 40 union members rallied outside a school board meeting and accused the board of failing to negotiate in good faith.

The union says the board has been unresponsive to its concerns as the two sides negotiate a new contract that would go into effect this summer.

Edie House, a school system spokeswoman, said system officials could not comment on pending negotiations. Board Chairman Brian D. Morris said he is confident that the negotiations will end successfully.

Union officials say the board wants to extend teachers' work days and increase their health care premiums while giving them almost no pay increase and cutting back on their sick days. In addition, teachers would be required to perform lavatory duty, and administrators would be allowed to dictate the format of teachers' lesson plans.

"These negotiations have been an insult to us," said Marietta English, co-president of the union. "What they're asking is ridiculous."

At the rally, she led chants of "enough is enough." She compared the system's treatment of teachers to the way slaves were treated, saying, "What happened on the plantation when the slaves had enough?"

Speaking later at the board meeting, English said the system is providing signing bonuses and other incentives to recruit new teachers but is doing nothing to keep the teachers it has.

English said she is also furious about the involuntary transfers of several teachers and aides at five schools being run under a new partnership with Towson University.

Towson officials said that about 60 teachers at the five schools -- four in Cherry Hill and one in Morrell Park -- have been asked to transfer or are volunteering to go to other schools next year because they are not meeting Towson's goals for reform.

English said the teachers being transferred have received satisfactory evaluations and called the move "disgusting."

Charlene Cooper Boston, the interim schools chief executive officer, said she is willing to reconsider the transfers.

Also last night, the school board again delayed voting on a contract to keep a for-profit company in charge of three city schools. Edison Schools Inc. has run Montebello, Gilmor and Furman Templeton elementaries since 2000 under a contract with the state education department.

When the state awarded the contract to Edison, it had the power to seize control of the schools, which were among the lowest-performing in the city. Now, state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick is returning control of the schools to the city school board when Edison's contract expires in June, which she says results from changes in state and federal law.

Boston is recommending that the board keep Edison in charge of the schools. The matter was was not listed on last night's agenda.

Jacqueline Marshall, Edison's vice president for development in Maryland, said the sticking point is that Edison has a longer day for staff and students than regular city schools do. Under a new contract with the city school board, Edison's teachers would become part of the Baltimore Teachers Union, and the union therefore needs to sign off on the extended day, which is 20 minutes longer for students and 55 minutes longer for teachers.

Marshall said she hopes that a meeting with the union will be held soon so that the board can vote on the Edison contract at its next regular meeting May 8.

sara.neufeld@baltsun.com

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