Teachers, board begin negotiaions

December 11, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Contract negotiations between the Washington County Board of Education and the Washington County Teachers Association began recently for the 2007-08 school year.

Tim Thornburg, employee and labor relations coordinator for the board and chief negotiator, said the board decided to negotiate tuition reimbursement and the voluntary transfer process.

The teachers association declined to comment on the negotiations or about information in a press release about the negotiations provided last week by Washington County Public Schools, said T. Scott Miller, Maryland State Teachers Association UniServ Director and chief negotiator.

In that release, former Board President W. Edward Forrest, said the teachers association submitted health insurance and extracurricular pay as its two items for discussion.


Thornburg said each side selects two topics to negotiate as well as the mandatory topic of salary.

The full contract will be open for bargaining in the fall of 2007 for subsequent years.

Both sides met Nov. 28 and discussed the ground rules for the bargaining. They finished discussions on the ground rules Thursday, Thornburg said.

One of the rules is that the negotiations will be open to all stakeholders, he said.

"Washington County has never had open negotiations between the board and the ... association," he said. "Open negotiations is a ground rule that the board held out because we believe it's important."

At the last bargaining meeting, the teachers association presented its salary proposal, Thornburg said. Because the decision to make the negotiations open was made after that presentation, he said he felt uncomfortable disclosing what the proposal was. He said the board's position on tuition reimbursement also was discussed. He cited the same reason for not disclosing the board's position.

Both sides agreed to allow audio recording of the meetings, Thornburg said. He said the board offered to televise the meetings, but the teachers association was "uncomfortable" with that proposal.

Other ground rules include meeting lengths, locations and a target date for completion. Thornburg said both sides are aiming to complete negotiations by Jan. 30, but no later than Feb. 15.

The next scheduled meeting is today from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at E. Russell Hicks Middle School.

Thornburg said he hopes that this year's negotiations include more discussions and opportunities to explain both sides' interests and the benefits associated with their positions.

In the past, he said, there has been limited conversation.

Thornburg declined to release information about the Board of Education's positions on topics to be negotiated, saying he wanted the teachers association to hear the information first.

"Our hope is that we're going to work collaboratively together, and we're going to address any bumps along the way," he said.

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