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Consultant defends schools' pay scale program

February 16, 2000|By BRUCE HAMILTON

A consultant hired by the Washington County Board of Education has defended his plan to change the pay scales of support personnel, clashing with the union representing those employees.

Charles Hendricks, president of Hendricks & Associates, Inc., Tuesday denied the union's charge that his proposal was an "off the shelf" study. He addressed a list of union criticisms point by point in an hour-long presentation.

"They seem to equate performance with showing up instead of accomplishing something," he said. "This study may not be worth much to (the union) because it is not a blank check."

The School Board hired Hendricks last March, paying his Washington firm $35,000 to conduct a reclassification study of 935 secretaries, custodians and other school support workers.

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Educational Support Personnel Local No. 1 representatives dismissed the study as nearly worthless last December. They said it does not fix some existing pay inequities and would give the most money to the newest employees.

"Their argument is with my message," Hendricks said.

The study would make pay scales more competitive with the market, he said. "Our recommendations are really on tap with other school systems," he said.

Hendricks refuted the union's charge that his study is a copy of another he wrote for the Washington County government. "The plans are not the same," he said, pointing out that the language is different in chapter four.

He said he has a 95 percent "track record" of getting his recommendations implemented, most recently in Richmond, Va., public schools. The studies his firm conducts are specific to each client or enterprise, he said.

A comparison of the two studies shows that the School Board's version contains several identical passages and the same pay raise formula. The "merit increase formula" in the county's study is called a "salary increase formula" in the School Board's.

The union asserted Hendricks' proposal advocated a merit pay system, which he also refuted. "It does not recommend a merit pay approach," he said. "They simply don't understand merit pay."

The union also criticized the study because it does not distinguish between those who work with children and those who do not. Hendricks said that criterion did not need to be considered.

"The study did not use a simplistic 'litmus test' of physical proximity to children," he said. "No other Maryland school system uses such a test."

The study was more nuanced and detailed than that, he said.

The School Board canceled a previous meeting with Hendricks because of snow. The board adopted a budget proposal Tuesday that includes $50,000 to implement the consultant's recommendations.

The board has not officially adopted the study. ESP Local No. 1 President Bonnie Parks said including money in the budget for it is premature and irresponsible.

"The Hendricks report is seriously flawed," she said.

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