Teachers' contract talks stall

April 28, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

WASHINGTON COUNTY - A stalemate over a proposed new compensation plan for teachers has put the brakes on contract talks between the Washington County Teachers Association and the school system, an association negotiator said Wednesday.

The school system's proposals "are geared toward basically destroying the integrity of the contract - the teachers' contract," negotiator Steve Benson said. He said negotiations have come to an "abrupt standstill" and the school board has asked to declare an impasse.

Linda Barkdoll, interim director of human resources and head negotiator for the board, denied the board has asked to declare an impasse, which would compel action by the Maryland State Superintendent.


According to Barkdoll, a board attorney asked Benson whether he would call for an impasse if the board rejected his request to bring a mediator to the table. Barkdoll said Benson already had turned aside a variety of proposals, and negotiators were seeking clarification on his position.

"We tried to meet the association more than halfway in looking at their proposals and at our proposals, and we did not leave the table with an agreement," Barkdoll said Wednesday.

If an impasse is declared, the State Superintendent could assign the talks to an arbitrator, Barkdoll and Benson said.

The contract expires June 30.

The school system could implement its "last, best offer" if no other resolution is found, Benson said.

Board members said Wednesday evening they were unaware of the status of the talks, which broke off earlier in the day. No further negotiations were set, Barkdoll said, pending direction from the board.

Board member Edward Forrest said he did not want to hurt the board's relationship with teachers.

"We want to negotiate in good faith, and we want to bargain at the table. We don't want to be sparring in the press," Forrest said.

Benson said proposals for a career ladder, which would award pay scale increases to teachers involved in certain leadership activities, are unacceptable. The association would like to see all its members get salary increases, he said.

According to information provided by Benson, increases would be awarded to teachers in such roles as department leader, parent group faculty representative, acting principal and grant manager. Benson said the ladder increases would go into effect only after teachers had accumulated enough points by taking on specific responsibilities over time.

Benson estimated the positions covered could be filled by 30 percent of the system's teachers, leaving their colleagues without a way to advance their own pay scales.

Benson said another proposal would invalidate teachers' workdays and allow administrators to determine which teachers could earn more pay through extra time.

Barkdoll and board member Roxanne Ober said the ladder was designed to compensate teachers for taking on more responsibilities.

Barkdoll denied Benson's claim that it would take a teacher years to earn enough points to benefit from the system.

Barkdoll said she believed the ladder would be both a retention and recruitment tool. It would allow teachers to earn more compensation and recognition without having to leave their current roles for positions in administration, she said.

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