`Work to rule,' city teachers urged

Union says talks over planning time stall

August 22, 2007|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,sun reporter

The Baltimore Teachers Union is asking teachers to "work to rule" when classes start next week because negotiations on a new two-year contract have stalled over planning time for teachers, a union leader said yesterday.

Contract talks have reached an impasse, said Marietta English, president of the teachers' chapter of the Baltimore Teachers Union. The union, which also represents paraprofessionals, plans to ask the Maryland State Department of Education to move negotiations to a fact-finding phase to resolve the issue.

Under the existing contract, which expired last month, secondary teachers get five planning periods a week; elementary school teachers get three 45-minute sessions while children attend art or music classes.

English said the preparatory time, used for making photocopies, grading papers and other tasks, is essential for planning lessons and running organized classrooms. Other districts guarantee elementary school instructors five or more planning periods, she said.

A school system spokeswoman did not return calls for comment last night. English said the school system wants to use some of the planning time for staff development. The contract includes 10 staff development days.

Teachers and paraprofessionals will continue to work under the existing contractual agreement, English said yesterday. The union is asking teachers to perform only tasks dictated by the contract and to work only during the designated school day.

The union is committed to working with Andres Alonso, the new chief executive officer of Baltimore schools, English said, but "we think it is outrageous that teachers are being denied a new contract while newly hired teachers are being offered bonuses up to $7,000 to work in the Baltimore City public schools," she said.

The school system is focused on recruiting teachers but not retaining those on staff, she said.

"It is appalling that teachers who dedicated their lives working in Baltimore City public schools have to begin a school year without a new contract, when every other district in the state has a contract and their school board respects them as dignified working people," English said. "We intend to demand the same respect."


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