Baltimore County Digest

BALTIMORE COUNTY DIGEST

May 23, 2007

School board cuts domestic-partner benefits, then OKs pacts

The Baltimore County school board cut domestic-partner benefits last night before approving contracts recently negotiated with employee unions, bringing swift criticism from the head of the teachers union.

"They made a big mistake tonight. I can tell you that teachers and other employees are upset about this," Cheryl Bost, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, said in an interview a moment after the vote. "This is going to be a sticking point."

The board approved contracts that include an average 4 percent raise for workers in the system's five unions that represent employees including teachers, counselors and custodians. The contracts, as negotiated, had included nearly $13 million in health care cuts in the form of higher co-payments and related adjustments.

School board President Donald L. Arnold said after the meeting that the board eliminated the domestic-partner provision because it did not include opposite-sex partners. "We felt it was inequitable," he said. "It probably would have been looked at more favorably if it had included partners of the opposite sex."

Bost said union workers likely will meet next week to consider whether to ratify the board-approved contracts. She declined to say whether she would recommend ratification by her members but added that the teachers union is "highly disappointed" by the action.

"For them, at the last minute, to take that one benefit out is going to be a disruption," Bost said.

In other action, the board received a staff recommendation that this year's sole charter school application be rejected.

Imagine Schools Inc. has proposed opening a charter school with nearly 400 students in kindergarten through eighth grade in the Woodlawn/Westview Park and Randallstown areas. Projected enrollment would increase to nearly 700 within four years, according to the charter school application.

In recommending to the school board that an application to open Discovery Public Charter School be denied, a review committee made up of 10 school system employees raised concerns about the school's ability to provide special-education services.

Charter schools are public schools that operate independently under contracts with local school boards. Seventeen of the state's 24 charter schools are in Baltimore.

In 2005, the county school board unanimously denied an application to start a public charter school for high school dropouts at a federal job training center in Woodstock. At the time, a school system committee that reviewed the application recommended rejection because it failed to meet state standards in several areas.

Gina Davis

Owings Mills

SUV strikes woman at coffee shop

A sport utility vehicle struck a woman outside an Owings Mills coffee shop before smashing into the building yesterday, authorities said.

The 32-year-old woman, identified as Hope Miles of the 300 block of Archery Court in Reisterstown, was struck about 1 p.m. while sitting outside a Starbucks in the 9900 block of Reisterstown Road. She was taken by ambulance to Sinai Hospital, where she was listed last night in critical condition, said Officer Robert Erickson, a Baltimore County traffic officer.

The driver of the sport utility vehicle attempted to pull into a parking spot at the Starbucks when she struck a parked car and then a curb before hitting the woman and breaking the building's front window, police said.

The driver was identified as Tanya Dadunts, 47, of the 300 block of Timber Grove Road in Reisterstown.

County building inspectors were called to determine the condition of the building, fire officials said.

Nick Shields

Reisterstown

Police identify crash victim

A woman who was killed in a crash last week in the Reisterstown area has been identified as a 20-year-old Pennsylvania resident.

Megan Birgensmith, 20, of Gettysburg, Pa., died at the scene of the crash Thursday on Westminster Pike, police said.

She was a passenger in a car that was making a left turn when it was struck by a truck, police said. No charges have been filed, but the investigation continues, police said.

Nick Shields

Baltimore County

Men sought in robberies

Police were searching for two men wanted in unrelated robberies in Baltimore County, authorities said.

A man entered a Food Lion grocery store in the 7500 block of North Point Road in Edgemere at 2:20 p.m. May 11 and demanded money from a clerk while pointing a hand gun, county police said.

The gunman was handed an unknown amount of cash before fleeing the store, county police said.

The robber was described as a black male in his mid-20s, about 5 feet 7 inches tall, with a medium build and black, medium length braided hair. He wore blue jeans, a white T-shirt and black shoes, police said.

Police were also searching for a man believed to be responsible for three robberies and one attempted robbery in the county since April 11, county police said.

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