It took months of negotiations, one failed contract offer and a full-blown teacher’s protest, but the Frederick County Board of Education has reached a tentative agreement with the Frederick County Teachers Association.
Under the new agreement — which was announced Friday and has yet to be ratified by teacher union members — teachers would get a furlough day at the end of the school year in exchange for a salary step increase starting in October.
The school board has also agreed to give employees a one-time payment coming from any savings from retirements and resignations in fiscal 2013.
The new agreement will also increase by 8 percent the school board’s contribution to employee health insurance premiums and defer an 8 percent premium increase for teachers until December.
Gary Brennan, president of the teachers association, said the new agreement was reached in a more collaborative spirit than the contract offer that teachers rejected in the beginning of June.
“We felt like they were more open to the suggestions that we had,” Brennan said.
In the spirit of cooperation, the board and the union have also agreed to set up a joint task force to study salary scales and to have regular meetings over the coming year.
One of the main concerns of teachers with the previous contract offer was that it called for a delayed step increase starting in December, which would have given teachers about three-fourths of a percent more in their paychecks. A full year step increase would give teachers a 3.5 percent increase, but that would have been diminished because a 1.5 percent supplement offered to employees last year to help cover increased pension costs has been eliminated.
Under the new offer, teachers would get two more months of step increases, which equals about 3 percent, Brennan said. Union officials felt that was an important step for teachers, which is why they agreed on the furlough day tradeoff.
Taking a furlough day would mean that teachers would not work on the last day of school for teachers in the 2012-13 school year, Brennan said. While teachers will lose a day of work, the furlough day will not affect students, who are finished with school earlier than teachers, he said.
“We felt this was a better way to deal with this,” Brennan said. “If teachers know well in advance about this, they will be prepared.”
The teachers union has recommended approval of the offer, and members have until Aug. 8 to cast ballots. If they choose to ratify the agreement, teachers will discontinue their ongoing “work-to-rule” protest.
It was a lack of agreement about pay raises that led teachers, in March, to begin working to rule — meaning they work only the hours for which they are paid.
Frederick County teachers have not had a pay raise since 2009, and teachers declined the school board’s first contract offer because they thought it was not comparable to ones in school systems statewide and to salary increases being given to county government employees.
School board President Angie Fish said on Friday that she was pleased that the teachers union has decided to back the board’s new contract offer. Fish was particularly excited about the upcoming meetings between the board and the teachers union representatives, which would help avoid repeating the difficulties from the past year.
“Everybody is happy to reach that kind of agreement,” Fish said. “We really made a step in the right direction.”
Contracts for the school system’s other two bargaining units — the Frederick Association of School Support Employees and the Frederick County Administrative and Supervisory Association — were approved in June. But the board now is open to adjusting those agreements to match the offer being made to the teachers union, Fish said.