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Teachers cancel today's talks

January 18, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Today's contract negotiations between the Washington County Board of Education and the Washington County Teachers Association have been canceled.

The meeting would have been the fourth round of negotiations for the 2007-08 school year.

Tim Thornburg, employee and labor relations coordinator and chief negotiator for the board, said he received a letter from the teachers association explaining their reason for canceling the meeting.

"Basically, they said they had other commitments and responsibilities that were requiring their attention," he said.

He said the board was prepared to meet today.

"In stark contrast to the Board of Education negotiations committee, the (teachers association) committee is entirely comprised of volunteers, not paid supervisors, who donate their time to this process in addition to their full-time teaching duties," T. Scott Miller, Maryland State Teachers Association UniServ Director and chief negotiator, said in an e-mail. "During periods of grading and classroom assessments, as is the case this week, it is unrealistic to add a joint bargaining session to teachers who already manage a very full workload. The WCTA will, of course, work with the board to schedule mutually convenient sessions as soon as possible."

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During negotiations, both sides will discuss salary.

The board presented proposals on tuition reimbursement and the voluntary transfer process at a meeting in December. The teachers association submitted health insurance and extracurricular pay earlier this month as its items for discussion.

Thornburg said the board hoped both sides would be further along in the negotiations process.

At the start of negotiations, there was discussion that they could be completed by Jan. 30. That date now appears unlikely.

There is no deadline for when negotiations must be completed.

Thornburg said both sides were discussing when to meet next, but there had been no formal decision.

"It's still early enough in the bargaining process that the two sides ... if the meetings are scheduled and used productively, there's no reason we can't reach an agreement in a timely manner," he said. "I remain hopeful that we are going to do that."

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