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WCPS board, teachers await state funding figures

System in contract talks with Washington County Teachers Association and Washington County Educational Support Personnel

April 16, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

Washington County Board of Education officials and union members are waiting to see how much state funding the school system will receive for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

The school system is in the midst of contract talks with the Washington County Teachers Association and Washington County Educational Support Personnel.

The teachers current deal expires June 30, and the union is in negotiations with the school system for a new contract, to take effect July 1.

The contract with the union that represents support personnel expires June 30, 2012. That union and the school system are renegotiating aspects of the last year of the contract, including pay.

"We're looking for whatever can realistically enhance our teachers and (educational support personnel) to the greatest extent possible," said T. Scott Miller, chief negotiator for both unions.

Miller said it was too soon to speculate about specific union requests because state legislators had not finalized the budget.

"We have to be competitive to get good people. That's the bottom line," said school board President Wayne Ridenour, a retired history, government and economics teacher who is married to a school teacher.

"We're working with a pretty precious commodity, and I want the best possible people we can get and you have to pay for that," Ridenour said.

The school system is the county's largest employer, according to a survey conducted from November 2010 to January 2011 by the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission. The EDC lists the school system's total employees at 2,958, but the number is higher.

As of March 29, the school system had 3,030 employees — 2,731 full-time and 299 part-time — according to an email from school system spokesman Richard Wright. That does not include board members, substitute personnel and temporary workers.

The last time raises or a step increase were given to employees was in fiscal 2009-2010, according to a school system chart of salary increases.

The school system negotiations with the teachers and support personnel unions resulted in an impasse last summer over issues that included salaries.

In November, the school system settled with the teachers union, providing a one-time $500 stipend to employees represented by both unions, as well as the nonunion Washington County Association of Supervisors and Administrators.

In January, the school system settled with support personnel, agreeing to provide a one-time payment of 1 percent of support personnel's base pay.

The school system also is in negotiations with the nonunion bargaining group that represents administrators and supervisors, said Marty Green, a representative of the nonunion group.

Negotiations for the upcoming fiscal year do not include salaries, he said.

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