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Salary hike quietly goes into effect

July 05, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

A 4 percent salary increase given to school system administrators on July 1 was approved in November, according to Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett Jr.

The Washington County Board of Education voted unanimously on the pay hike June 15. The item was not included on the agenda for the business meeting and the vote took less than a minute.

Board members said they discussed the raise in executive session before the vote.

The Herald-Mail protested the private discussion of salary adjustments through its lawyer, Mary R. Craig. She sent a letter June 23 to School Board President Edwin Hayes saying the board had violated the Maryland Open Meetings law.

Bartlett defended the move last week, saying the raise was not a secret and the private discussion was legal. He said the vote was a formality, since the salary agreement was signed two days before Thanksgiving.

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"There has been public discussion on this," he said.

According to the minutes, no one at the Nov. 24 business meeting mentioned the raise. Representing administrators and supervisors, Principals Rose Pellegrino and Rick Gehrman signed a personnel policies and procedures agreement that included the raise.

The document governs other issues such as tuition reimbursement and leave time. The School Board, then a five-member body, accepted the agreement unanimously.

Board members signed the document but they did not talk about it, according to the minutes. The number of board members increased to seven in December, but the board has not publicly talked about the raise.

Audio and video tapes of the meeting are no longer available, according to Publications/Materials Specialist James Eckel. The tapes are kept at least six months, he said.

Minutes from the work session, which was held the morning of the business meeting, refer to a salary increase, but don't mention any figures or when the raise would go into effect. The minutes do not reflect whether any members of the public were present.

The raise was scheduled to take effect July 1, 1999, and was contingent on funding from the Washington County Commissioners. This year's budget included $4.5 million for salary increases and benefits.

The raise for administrators and supervisors will cost about $471,000, according to Budget and Finance Director Chris South.

About 140 upper-level School Board employees, from assistant principals to executive directors, got raises of $2,300 to $4,300 per year as of July 1. The low end of the scale shifted from $45,610 to $47,909.

The administrators and supervisors discussed the raise privately with Human Resources Director Phil Ray on a "meet and confer" basis. The informal process results in an agreement instead of a contract.

Representatives of the Washington County Association of Supervisors and Administrators met with Ray over a period of several months last year. They agreed informally to the raise in July 1998, according to Ray.

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