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Washington County teachers' union added to school board vacancy committee

April 20, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY - The Washington County Teachers Association, one of three bargaining units in the school system, will help recommend the next school board member.

The teachers' union - which is locked in contract talks with the board - will be among those reviewing applications for an open board seat.

W. Edward Forrest resigned from the board, effective April 16, because of a new job that requires him to travel a lot.

The school system's other two bargaining units are not on the vacancy committee.

Although more input is good, "I would imagine there will be concerns once that becomes common knowledge," board Vice President Wayne D. Ridenour said.

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"It hurts somewhat, but it isn't surprising," said Sheila Metzel, president of the bargaining unit that includes bus drivers, custodians and various other employees. "It's like you're a forgotten element."

Some didn't think the teachers' union should have named the chairman of its contract negotiating team, Stan Stouffer, to the committee.

"That certainly does raise concerns," said Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington.

Shank said he supports having a labor representative on the committee, but not someone at the heart of the contract talks, which creates a perception, at least, that the issues are intertwined.

Negotiations between the board - whose president, Roxanne R. Ober, will be on the vacancy committee - and the teachers have seen little progress in recent months.

The deadline for applications to replace Forrest is May 1. As of Thursday, three applications had come in.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, who helped set up the vacancy committee, said applicants' names won't be made public until after the deadline.

The Herald-Mail independently confirmed, from the applicants, that two are past board members Jacqueline Fischer and Russell Williams and the third is Donna Brightman, who ran unsuccessfully last year for a Washington County Commissioners seat.

By state law, the governor appoints a replacement to a local school board after receiving three recommendations from the county. The law doesn't dictate how a county makes recommendations.

When Doris J. Nipps resigned from the board in 2002, the county's state lawmakers set up a similar committee. Former school board member B. Marie Byers was the chairwoman.

Rodney M. Shoop, who recently retired as Washington County's administrator, is the chair of this year's committee.

The committee includes:

· Stouffer, of the WCTA, for the Central Maryland Labor AFL-CIO Council

· Ober, for the school board

· Merle Elliott, for the county's state delegates

· Mike Weller, for the county's state senators

· Richard W. Phoebus Sr., for the Washington County Commissioners

· Brien J. Poffenberger, for the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

The last two groups - the county's council of PTAs and its Citizens Advisory Committee - hadn't contacted Shoop as of Thursday and could not be reached by The Herald-Mail.

Shoop said Myers wants the committee to make recommendations by the second or third week of May.

Two weeks ago, Myers announced that seven groups would be represented on the vacancy committee.

The labor council was not one, but, after reading about the committee in The Herald-Mail, successfully lobbied to be added.

"We feel that labor should have a voice," said Myers, the delegation chairman.

The council was invited without knowing a WCTA contract negotiator would end up on the committee, said Shank, who suggested that the council "revisit" its decision.

The teachers' union didn't like being excluded last time, President Claude Sasse said. "We took issue with that," he said.

Myers said the WCTA should try to represent all three bargaining units on the committee, but, like Shank, said its negotiations chairman shouldn't be picked.

Stouffer, though, said contract talks won't play a part in the board vacancy review. "I just don't think there's a connection there," he said.

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