- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The creation of a new union for public school administrators and supervisors is on hold pending the outcome of a protest filed by the Education Association of St. Mary’s County.
EASMC, the union currently representing teachers and other employees, including administrators, wrote a letter Dec. 22 to the Maryland Public School Labor Relations Board asking that the St. Mary’s school board be ordered to cease and desist its attempt to create the new bargaining unit.
EASMC charges that the school board’s action to “unilaterally create a second certificated bargaining unit in St. Mary’s County is contrary to Maryland law.”
Such a split, EASMC’s letter argues, can only occur with the current union’s agreement. “Were such a unilateral action permitted by law, it could lead to absurd results and labor instability,” EASMC’s letter said.
Greg Nourse, the school system’s chief of fiscal services and human resources, said the St. Mary’s County Board of Education decided earlier this month to put the matter on hold until it receives word from the labor relations board. At this point, he said, the labor relations board has not said if it will even hear the case, let alone render a decision.
“They’re just holding off, waiting a little bit,” Nourse said this week of the local school board. “There’s still some time to establish the group.”
He said the new union, if it goes forward, would need to negotiate its terms with the school board probably by May of this year if it were to go into effect by July 1.
A group of St. Mary’s public school administrators and supervisors want to form the new union separate from teachers to represent them in contract negotiations and other matters. The St. Mary’s school board voted Nov. 9 to permit the creation of the new union.
Alex Jaffurs, supervisor of secondary mathematics, said the move to form a new union was initiated by several administrators, including himself, to gain better representation. He said about 108 school employees could be eligible to join and that he and several others have already begun to draft bylaws in anticipation of the union’s official formation.
He said the administrators asking for the new union are not happy with the delay.
“We’ve not asked for anything different than from the beginning,” he said. The group has asked to be released from the EASMC union, which has refused its request.
Jaffurs said that nearly all of the other public school systems in the state have separate bargaining units for administrators and that Maryland law provides for the creation of such a union in St. Mary’s County.
He said Tuesday the administrators are planning to submit a letter to the local school board asking them to directly recognize their union. The school board has said that the composition of the new bargaining unit would need to be negotiated.
In a Dec. 16 letter, Nourse wrote that the school board and staff “have tried to be neutral and responsive to the interests of our employees.” During that time, he wrote, EASMC has refused to negotiate the composition of the new bargaining union or allow administrators who want to start the new union to talk with the EASMC board of directors.
Nourse wrote that a “collaborative solution” proposed by Superintendent Michael Martirano to create a two-tiered system within the current EASMC organization could still go forward but for EASMC leaders’ refusal to meet.
EASMC leaders have maintained they would meet about the issue, but only after the school board rescinds its action of Nov. 9 authorizing the creation of the new bargaining unit.
The Education Association of St. Mary’s County for four decades since its creation has been representing teachers, principals and administrators, and the Collective Education Association of St. Mary’s County represents other employees, such as maintenance and secretarial staff.
Wanda Twigg, president of EASMC, said earlier the union currently has about 880 members. Between 20 and 30 of those would be considered administrators or supervisors, according to those involved in the unions.
Union leaders say the current system has been operating successfully for four decades and that splitting the union could weaken it, especially now while the economy is still recovering.