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The Calvert County Board of Education’s negotiating team met Wednesday with both the teachers and support staff unions to negotiate health care for all school system employees.

Though the unions and the board’s team made very few changes to the current policy, the unions asked for a three-year “firewall” to be put around the policy to protect it from further changes in the coming years.

A similar three-year firewall was placed on the health care policy for fiscal 2011, meaning health care was not negotiated for fiscal years 2012 and 2013, though wellness-related incentives were added to teacher and support staff contracts.

The unions also asked that a committee be formed, including the union presidents, their chief negotiator and school system personnel, to navigate health care changes at the federal and state levels.

“If you’re not suggesting having the firewall removed, what’s the purpose of having the committee?” asked Calvert County Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Robin Welsh, the chief negotiator for the board’s team.

Joseph Sella, the chief negotiator for both unions, said the committee would be about incorporating state and federal health care laws into the policy without re-negotiating items like co-pays.

“It’s a mechanism to keep us from going to the table on everything,” Sella said.

“There’s nothing to discuss [if] the law’s going to require it,” Welsh said. “ ... We can talk about it all we want, but if we don’t have a choice, we have to do it.”

Sella responded that the committee would show a cooperative, singular effort on the part of all CCPS employees.

“If we have a message that goes out consistently — that’s also the point of this committee, Robin,” Sella said.

The board’s team also proposed a committee that would focus on health benefits and wellness.

For fiscal 2013, the board and unions agreed to an incentive that will give employees $500 for no sick days; $300 for one to two sicks days; and $150 for three sick days, in addition to a joint wellness program with Calvert Memorial Hospital.

Wednesday’s health care negotiations included two 30- to 45-minute periods where the board and unions were caucusing separately among themselves. When the three-hour negotiating session ended, the board’s team still was putting together a response to the unions’ most recent proposal.

Negotiations are expected to continue in early 2013.

ldukes@somdnews.com