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Washington Co. BOE, teachers' union in negotiations for new contract

December 14, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Salary, benefits and a host of other issues will be discussed during Washington County Public Schools teacher negotiations, now under way.

Officials representing the Board of Education and the county's teachers' union have met several times since October and will meet publicly for the first time in January.

The teachers' current three-year contract expires in June 2008.

Negotiations on portions of the 2007-08 teachers' contract were completed in June. That package, which totaled about $8 million, included a 7 percent raise for teachers, among other items.

Both sides agreed on the contract following six months of negotiations that led to state officials declaring talks at an impasse in May.

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Tim Thornburg said both sides recognize that this year and most likely the year after will be very "lean" years for the school system's budget. Thornburg is supervisor of human resources and employee/labor relations for Washington County Public Schools, and also is the board's chief negotiator.

"The board is certainly going to do its best to provide a salary increase (to teachers) if possible," he said.

Salary and benefits will be discussed during contract negotiations, Thornburg said. Each side also has brought issues to the table that they would like entered into the contract. Either side, however, could decline to negotiate the items, he said.

Current negotiations could have included the full contract.

"The association appreciates the spirit of good will and collaboration that the negotiators from the Board of Education have contributed to the bargaining process," said T. Scott Miller, Maryland State Teachers Association UniServ director and Washington County Teachers Association negotiations consultant. "There has been a strong effort on both sides to identify, work through and agree upon common solutions to issues that benefit both sides."

WCTA has brought forth temporary leave, which includes bereavement leave and religious observance; planning time; association rights, which includes six items; establishment of a health-care committee; having current health-care benefits for retirees placed into the contract; and improvement to contract language regarding a leadership program for teachers, officials said.

Thornburg said the board has asked to negotiate on issues related to the teacher workday, including a request that teachers have two mandatory evening meetings; monitoring duties, including lunchtime hallway duty; workers' compensation; reassignment of vacated positions; voluntary transfers; extracurricular activities; and areas of critical needs.

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