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The union representing Calvert County Public Schools teachers has held contract negotiations with the Calvert County Board of Education’s negotiating team on Jan. 10 and 11 and Monday, but both sides could not reach final agreements on salary or health care, which took up the bulk of negotiating time.

When it comes to salary, both sides seem to be at a consensus for a proposal that condenses the teachers’ salary scale so they will be able to reach their highest salary at step 26 rather than the current step 28. Under the proposal, teachers would be moved to their closest salary amount on the new scale and then moved forward an additional step.

An example given during negotiations was that a teacher currently on step 2 making $42,713 would be moved to his or her closest salary amount, step 4 on the new scale, making $43,461. This teacher would then be bumped forward to step 5 and make $45,156. The union, the Calvert Education Association, is also proposing that all teachers additionally receive a 4 percent cost of living salary adjustment.

Another concern of the union’s was how to further reward veteran teachers who are no longer eligible for steps. The union’s proposal was for these teachers to be given an additional 2.5-percent raise once they’ve been at the highest step for five years.

The board’s chief negotiator, CCPS Deputy Superintendent Robin Welsh, said she thought this proposal defeated the purpose of the salary compression, since its goal is to get teachers to their highest step faster. Welsh said if this is what the union wanted, CCPS might as well just extend steps rather than condense them.

“In that sense, you’re talking about a step 30, and that is not where you’re going to want to go,” Welsh said. “… None of this is coming together; it doesn’t make sense.”

CEA Chief Negotiator Joseph Sella said “longevity rewards” are common in school systems and among associations, and referenced Montgomery County Public Schools as doing something similar.

After a caucus in which the two sides talked separately among themselves, Welsh said she researched Montgomery County Public Schools and found that system’s teachers worked five additional days per year than CCPS teachers. Welsh also noted that CCPS teachers are the second highest paid teachers in the state behind Montgomery’s.

Welsh said while she agreed with the pay scale compression proposal, the total compensation package the union was proposing would cost the school system $6.2 million.

“We don’t have that money,” Welsh said.

The board’s team did propose that teachers no longer eligible for steps receive a one-time stipend of .75 percent of their salary.

“I think that’s the best we can do,” Welsh said.

At Monday’s negotiations, the CEA never returned a counter proposal regarding the .75 percent stipend, though Sella did say his team was close to having something to return to the board’s team.

“We’re just trying to review the salary proposal to make it equal across the table,” Sella said.

The board’s team and the CEA, along with the Calvert Association of Educational Support Staff, also spent time Jan. 10 and Monday negotiating health care.

The board’s team had been proposing a joint committee to study items like potential cost changes; plan alternatives; containment strategies; and changes at the state and federal level. The unions were against the idea of this committee and the board’s team eventually agreed to drop it.

“If we’re going to talk health care, lets talk about it at the negotiating table,” Sella said.

The board’s team and the unions could not agree on the duration of the proposed health care article.

The unions initially wanted a three-year “firewall” on the article, meaning it could not be touched until fiscal 2017. The unions eventually proposed that the article be able to be reopened after its second year for fiscal 2016.

The board’s team said considering potential significant changes due to the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, the article should be able to be reopened annually.

Welsh pointed out that younger, healthier teachers may want to take advantage of the exchange and have more money in their take-home paychecks. Welsh said having fewer younger, healthier employees on the school system’s plan would mean its “at-risk” group would appear larger, therefore potentially leading to increased costs.

“We can’t negotiate on possibilities,” Sella said. “There’s no concrete thing here except fear. … We are willing to look at [opening the article for] the third year because by then the substantial changes will be in place.”

“Then we’re in disagreement with you. That’s all I can say,” Welsh said.

While additional negotiation sessions specifically for health care have yet to be scheduled, the board’s team and the CEA will continue teacher contract negotiations Thursday, Jan. 17, after time of press.