School board, teachers far apart on salaries

January 26, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - The Washington County Board of Education and the Washington County Teachers Association have presented drastically different salary and extra-duty pay proposals during contract negotiations for the 2007-08 school year.

The board initially proposed a 3 percent salary increase and a step increase. The teachers association asked for a 12 percent pay increase plus a step increase.

During a bargaining session Thursday, the board presented a salary counterproposal of a 3.5 percent increase plus a step increase.

Tim Thornburg, employee and labor relations coordinator for the board and chief negotiator, said that is in essence a 5 percent pay increase for most teachers.

He called the teachers association's 12 percent increase "unrealistic" and "unacceptable." Members on the teachers' side questioned what the board believed they were worth.


Thursday's negotiations were the fourth meeting of the sides. In addition to salary, discussions focused on extra-duty pay for teachers, tuition reimbursement, health insurance and the voluntary transfer process.

The board presented a counterproposal package Thursday that touched on each of these issues.

Thornburg said the board's counterproposal on salary was "quite a bit different" than the amount the association asked for.

He said giving teachers a 12 percent salary increase, plus the step increase, would mean more than $12 million from the board of education.

T. Scott Miller, Maryland State Teachers Association UniServ Director and chief negotiator, said the county's teachers are getting more results than they're being paid for.

He cited a recent presentation from a state official to the Washington County Board of Education on the success of the county's students.

"There are maybe two to three systems performing better than Washington County," Miller said. "However, our pay right now is 18th in the state. ... One of the biggest reasons we're bringing (this) forward is to ask for a pay increase that supports that type of work that our members are putting forth each day."

Miller said the association is interested in attracting and retaining quality teachers, which is an interest shared by the board.

"The (teachers association) is committed to providing its members with pay that is commensurate with their talent and helping the board to successfully put a stop to the current attrition rate that reflects the departure of 48 percent of new Washington County teachers within the first six years following their hire," Miller said.

Thornburg said pay increases for teachers over the past 10 years have averaged 2 to 5 percent.

"Pay increases they've gotten from 1997 to 2007 ... teachers have gotten a 41.7 percent increase in pay over 10 years," he said. "How many people at their current jobs can say they've received that increase in salary?"

Money was discussed again during the board's counterproposal on extra-duty pay. The teachers association has proposed that teachers be paid $60 for each hour of work spent outside of the school day, including attending meetings, workshops or professional development activities.

Teachers are now paid $20 to $25 per hour of work outside of the contractual day, Thornburg said.

In a counterproposal, the board offered a 3.5 percent increase per hour of extra-duty pay, he said.

Members of the association's bargaining team said that amounted to only 70 cents to 87 cents more per hour than the current rate.

"That's all we're worth?" questioned Nina Garrett, a member of the association's negotiating team, and secretary and treasurer of the association.

Miller said the association believed the proposal by the board on extra-duty pay was too low.

Voluntary transfers also were discussed during negotiations. The board has proposed shortening the time for teachers to voluntarily transfer from a position to 30 days - Feb. 1 to March 1.

Thornburg said teachers could apply after the March 1 date, but after that window closes, teachers could also be recruited to fill the open positions. Teachers currently have from Feb. 1 to June 15 for voluntary transfer.

The teachers association proposed extending the amount of time for teachers to voluntarily transfer by 45 days, to July 31.

"In a WCTA survey, hundreds of our teachers strongly indicated that a shortened transfer window would permanently remove their ability to make a transfer decision after finishing the year and would increase attrition by forcing teachers to emotionally prepare for a departure while teaching two additional moths in an outgoing assignment," Miller said. "The (teachers association) will continue to advocate for our teachers until we have achieved members' goals."

A date for the next bargaining session was not decided at Thursday's meeting.

What they propose

The Washington County Teachers Association has proposed the following:

· A 12 percent pay increase, plus a step increase

· $60 for each hour of work spent outside of the school day

· Extend the deadline for voluntary transfers from June 15 to July 31

The Washington County Board of Education has proposed the following:

· A 3.5 percent pay increase, plus a step increase

· A 3.5 percent increase for each hour of extra-duty pay (typically $20 to $25 per hour)

· Shorten the time for voluntary transfer to 30 days, from Feb. 1 to March 1

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