- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The Charles County Board of Education approved agreements on June 28 between the school system and the teacher’s and support staff unions which include a one-step salary increase to employees.
The agreement must still be ratified by the unions.
Two of the seven board members opposed the decision and one abstained.
The vote was taken during a conference call with all seven board members. Jennifer S. Abell, and Patricia Bowie voted against the contracts and Michael K. Lukas abstained.
Lukas said that due to this year’s budget figures coming in late from the state and county, pushing back negotiated contracts, he and staff didn’t see negotiated contract information until last week.
Because the fiscal year has begun, Lukas said a decision needed to be made regarding contracts. However, he was not confident on all the pieces of the agreement.
Not having sufficient time to get explanations on certain items enabling him to vote with all the facts and data led to his abstaining.
He said there were some items — though he went into no detail — that were in contrast to what he heard in recommendations from school staff weeks before.
Abell said she believed that some of the agreements were made “outside the parameters previously set by the board.”
Lukas said he was in favor of step increases and raises for employees.
During negotiations both parties agreed to all eligible employees advancing one step on the school system’s pay scale. Those who are frozen at the top of the scale will receive a 2 percent adjustment and employees not eligible for a step increase will receive a one-time $1,000 payment, based on the agreement.
Meg MacDonald, chief negotiator for the Education Association for Charles County — the teacher’s union — said they were asking for two steps to put employees back on track from previous years when steps weren’t given.
The school system requested additional funding of $8 million from the county to manage two steps, but only received $4.million.
In total, the school system did receive $8 million in additional funding, but $4 million of that is specifically geared to teacher pensions which were passed on from the state to the county.
One area where MacDonald said she thought the board made a bad decision regarded an article where the parties agreed that future employees have half of county tuition waived if they live out of county and wish to bring their children to the system.
Previous contracts have included clauses stating that county tuition is waived for employees coming from other counties.
“I think it’s a bad move. It’s going to hurt them in their recruiting efforts,” she said.
The compromise came about after board discussions on transfer policies and changes to the superintendent’s transfer rule came up earlier this year.
Current employees are grandfathered in and will not be affected by the new tuition agreement.
Abell said her opposition was based on tuition.
“It is my belief that all people who send their children to Charles County schools from out of county should pay tuition,” she said.
Tuition for students living outside of Maryland is $11,200, a $75 increase over last year. Those living in Maryland but outside of the county will pay $6,980, a difference of $55 over last year.
The school board approved the tuition increases at the same conference call last week.
Other agreements included language changes and clarifications such as previous contracted agreements pertaining to tenure employees.
The state redefined tenure to pertain to employees working three years as opposed to two years.
Superintendent James E. Richmond said the negotiations went well and as always “we put everything on the table. Here is where we are, what we can do and what we can’t do.”
While the table agreements have been approved by the board, the unions have to send the information to their members for ratification.
MacDonald said letters and emails have been sent out to the more than 2,000 members of the teachers group.
She said so far she has heard positive feedback.
After the unions ratify the agreements, contracts can be signed.