City school district to propose second buyout

Move comes days after paraeducators ratify new contract

May 09, 2011|By Erica L. Green, The Baltimore Sun

On the heels of 330 teachers' accepting early retirement packages from the city school system, officials will propose a similar deal for 500 of its most experienced instructional support staff.

According to an early retirement incentive plan scheduled to be presented at the city school board meeting Tuesday night, the school system will look to trim its pool of paraprofessionals who have more than 10 years' experience by offering them 50 percent of their base salary for a year and a sick-leave payout to be put into a school investment plan.

According to the proposal, 10 job titles are eligible, including paraeducators in ESOL, pre-kindergarten and special education. Those eligible will have to decide by June 16 whether or not to take the deal. At least 100, but not more than 500, paraeducators would have participate for it to be offered.

The proposed plan is the second in three months to be offered to city educators. Up to 750 teachers were offered a similar deal in February as both a cost-saving measure and a way for the district to anticipate vacancies.

The proposed paraeducator deal will save about $250,000, school officials said.

"The real savings are in safeguarding possible layoffs or a surplus, as we anticipate fewer positions in this area," said city schools CEO Andrés Alonso. For the past three years, the city has carried more than 100 surplus or displaced teachers each year, at a total expense of $18 million.

The proposal will come just days after more than 600 paraprofessionals overwhelmingly voted to ratify a contract negotiated by the Baltimore Teachers Union, which said it supported the early retirement offer for members who are eligible to retire and can afford to.

In addition to more than 6,000 teachers, the BTU represents about 3,000 members of the Paraprofessional and School Related Personnel chapter that includes classroom assistants, teacher's aides, accountants, secretaries and office staff.

Under the new four-year contract, approved by members Friday, paraeducators will receive immediate 2 percent raises retroactive to July 1, 2010, a 2 percent longevity rate increase and a $750 stipend. Next year, members will receive a 1 percent pay increase with a $500 stipend, before moving to cost-of-living increases.

The school board is also scheduled to approve the contract — which will cost about $500,000 a year more than the existing one — on Tuesday.

Eugene Belcher, a paraeducator of 13 years, said he voted for the contract, though he couldn't help but compare it to the deal struck for city teachers that is widely viewed as a landmark agreement.

"I thought it could have been better because we pay the same dues as the teachers pay, and I felt like we could've gotten the same benefits," he said. "But it's a lot better than before, and will help a lot of people who really needed it."

Like the teachers and administrators union contracts, paraprofessionals will be able to move up the pay scale based on satisfactory evaluations.

"I'm glad our PSRPs are in tune with their profession and that this contract will allow them to continue to have success in this school system for years to come," Marietta English, president of the BTU, said in a statement.

Alonso agreed, saying he believed that of all the contracts "this is in a way the most remarkable. "

"Most districts … stop short of school staff outside teachers and administrators," he said. "It brings enormous coherence to our work."

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