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School board offers higher salaries

Teachers want improved health benefits, vision plan

Teachers want improved health benefits, vision plan

February 06, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - The Washington County Board of Education increased its salary offer for teachers Monday during negotiations for 2007-08 contracts.

The county's teachers association said that while that was appreciated, teachers also believe a vision health-care plan and retiree health-care benefits are as important as salary enhancements and noted that those concerns were not being addressed.

Negotiations between the two sides have been ongoing since December 2006.

The board proposed a 5 percent salary increase, plus a step increase, which would equate to a 6.5 percent increase in salary for most teachers, said Tim Thornburg, employee and labor relations coordinator for the board and its chief negotiator. At their last bargaining session, the board proposed a 3.5 percent salary increase, plus the step increase.

Thornburg said the board's 5 percent proposal would increase the starting salary for a teacher in Washington County from $39,127 to $41,178.

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The salary increase and other items were included in a package of counterproposals the board presented Monday.

The board also increased its counterproposal on extra duty pay from an increase of 3.5 percent to 5 percent, which the association continued to say was not enough. Teachers are paid $20 to $35 an hour for work outside of the contractual day, Thornburg said.

The teachers association asked for $60 per hour in extra duty pay, which includes attending meetings, workshops and professional development activities.

Stan Stouffer, chairman of the association's negotiating team, said a 5 percent increase for extra duty pay worked out to about $1.25 more per hour for teachers. He called that "laughable."

"If we took that to our membership, they'd string us up," he said.

T. Scott Miller, Maryland State Teachers Association UniServ Director and chief negotiator, said surveyed teachers listed vision coverage among their top priorities. It was not included in the board's counterproposal.

"The (association) has noted that a vision plan would cost the board a monthly fee of between $3 and $4 per employee," Miller said. "The (association) is disappointed that the board seems unwilling to fund this cost. Currently, 12 out of 24 Maryland school systems offer a vision plan to teachers."

Stouffer said the school system's motto of "world class" does not apply to its vision benefits for teachers.

"The board does not have an infinite pot of money from which to negotiate," Thornburg said. "The board's negotiation team has worked diligently to find common ground with the association whenever possible, but we must continue to find a balance between the needs of the staff and those of the students. If the board were to accept some of the association's proposals, we would definitely be paying staff more, but in the end, students would suffer."

Thornburg said he would be meeting with the board today and would discuss the association's requests.

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