- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Teachers and other school employees will get raises that were due to them but delayed during the last two years, union leaders say, if tentative contract agreements with the St. Mary’s school board are ratified.
The step pay raises, which are to be granted based on years of service, will cost an estimated $3.6 million next fiscal year, said Brad Clements, deputy superintendent and lead negotiator for the school board.
Clements said the negotiating teams worked collaboratively on the new agreements.
“Our members made it clear that they wanted us to fight for what we lost, in terms of money” when step pay increases were denied during the last two years, said Anna Laughlin, president of the Education Association of St. Mary’s County.
Still, Laughlin said that the contract does not include everything employees deserve. There is no cost-of-living increase included for employees, and the contracts do not include the step pay increases that would count for the current year of service.
The agreements, which still need to be approved by union membership, outline similar salary arrangements for both EASMC, which represents teachers, and the Collective Education Association of St. Mary’s County, which represents other school staff.
The agreements include:
• One raise on July 1, 2013, for step pay increases not received by qualifying staff during the 2010-2011 school year.
• Another raise in January 2014 for step pay increases not received by qualifying staff during the 2011-2012 school year.
• Qualifying staff who do not receive a salary increase for either of the two steps listed above would receive an $800 one-time stipend in December 2013.
Laughlin commended Superintendent Michael Martirano for his support of the school system’s employees. She said the superintendent and the school board need to work with the county commissioners to make sure the agreement can be funded.
She said that negotiating raises was “a difficult situation” because the county commissioners and school board are still working on next year’s budget.
“I think we have been more than fair,” Laughlin said.
Terrie Butt, president of CEASMC, said in a statement, “It is important to protect our quality schools by recruiting and retaining excellent support professionals, and this agreement demonstrates their respectful commitment to get us back on track.”
Martirano, who earlier this month was reappointed to a third four-year term to lead the school system, said in a statement that funding for the agreement is included in his proposed budget, which the school board plans to vote on at a meeting. today, Wednesday.
The proposed fiscal year 2014 operating budget, which currently calls for an additional $7 million of county funds and virtually flat funding from the state, totals about $192 million. The budget, once endorsed by the school board, will still need to be approved by the county commissioners.
The negotiated agreements extend current contract language for two additional years, with openers to renegotiate salary each year. The current agreements, which were scheduled to conclude in July 2015, will now conclude in July 2017.
Laughlin said that could be a good thing for the union because health-care coverage and employee cost cannot be reopened until the contract expires in four years.
“The success of our students is greatly dependent on our highly effective teachers, our support staff, and the leadership of our administration, who do a lot with the resources we have to make St. Mary’s County Public Schools one of the leading school systems in the state,” Martirano said in his statement.
Negotiations are continuing with the newly formed union of school administrators.
“Everything’s going well, it’s just a lot of work,” Clements said. The administrators union and school board negotiating teams have to create an entirely new contract, a process that takes much longer than renegotiating an existing contract, he said.