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Impasse declared between Washington County Public Schools, teachers association

Two sides have until Saturday to begin selecting a mediator, and mediation must begin by June 21

June 06, 2013|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

The Maryland Public School Labor Relations Board has declared an impasse between Washington County Public Schools and the Washington County Teachers Association over pay-raise negotiations, the board’s executive director confirmed Thursday.

The impasse order was declared Monday and issued Tuesday in the mail, Erica Snipes, executive director for the Maryland State Labor Relations Boards, said in a telephone interview.

The two sides have until Saturday to begin selecting a mediator, and mediation must begin by June 21, under state regulations.

The school system and teachers union have been negotiating a pay increase for 1,733 teachers since February, but hit a roadblock regarding teachers at the top step of the pay scale.

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The school system made the same offer to all three of its employee groups — a step increase in July with a 1 percent pay increase for those employees already at the top step, schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox has said.

On Tuesday, the school board approved those raises for the nonunion group of administrators and supervisors, and the union representing full-time support personnel such as secretarial, transportation, cafeteria and custodial workers.

After Tuesday’s board meeting, Wilcox said school system officials agree teachers at the top step should get something to offset the cost of living and to reward them for their service, but the two sides had reached a “logjam” on how much that should be.

The teachers union is asking for teachers at the top of the pay scale to receive a 2 percent pay increase and for teachers who reach that top step in the future to also get a 2 percent increase, union negotiator Steve Benson said Thursday.

Under the board’s proposal, teachers below the top of the scale would get about twice as much as teachers with at least 20 years’ experience, Benson said.

The school system’s offer would provide the most experienced teachers with about $750, “which is about half of what those persons receiving steps would get,” according to a negotiations update for May 3 on the teachers association’s website.

Pay for teachers at the top of the scale in Washington County ranks 21st out of the 23 county school systems in the state, according to Benson and the teachers union website.

The difference in cost between the two sides is about $250,000 to $275,000, Benson and the website said.

Wilcox has said that after initially setting aside about $530,000 in the upcoming budget for raises, the board directed him to make more money available. A review of the budget increased the pool of money available for raises to about $3 million, cutting funding in other areas, Wilcox has said.

Wilcox has said the school system’s proposed pay increase for teachers would cost about $2.4 million to $2.5 million.

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