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Salary increases and more work time are two of the biggest requests Calvert’s support staff and teachers’ unions will discuss with the Calvert County Board of Education during their annual negotiations, which are open to the public and began Monday.

Calvert Association of Educational Support Staff salary negotiations started this week, and the Calvert Education Association will begin its negotiations next week.

Unlike previous years, where the board of education’s negotiating team was led by Robin Welsh, a lawyer and former deputy superintendent for Calvert County Public Schools, this year the board’s negotiating team consists of lawyers Les Dellman and Ed O’Meally from Pessin Katz Law, from Towson, who represent the school system.

This year’s negotiations deadline is Jan. 11, 2014, in time for Nancy V. Highsmith, interim superintendent, to present the superintendent’s budget. Though last year’s negotiations lasted until the end of January, CEA and CAESS Chief Negotiator Joseph Sella and CEA President Debbie Russ said they hope to finish the current negotiations next week.

“To get it done before the holidays or soon after would be advantageous to both sides,” Russ said.

Russ said after having discussions with teachers and reviewing results of a yearly survey, she has heard that work time is the most important necessity for teachers in Calvert County.

“With all the new initiatives coming down from [the Maryland State Department of Education], teachers really need personal work time,” Russ said. “There’s a lot of changes in education and good teachers are running scared, and that shouldn’t be.”

Russ cited state mandates, such as the Common Core State Standards, the new observation and evaluation model for teachers and the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers (PARCC) assessments, as the cause for more personal work time teachers need.

“We call it the third wave of reform,” Russ said. “The new [interim] superintendent is very aware of the time involved with this, and we’re trying to etch out some more personal time for teachers to work on the new initiatives they have no choice about.”

Another issue the union is consistently negotiating with the board is salary increases.

“We provide some of the highest test scores in the country,” Sella said of the county’s teachers. “Forbes magazine has rated us one of the richest counties in the state. … We find it fascinating that [the board] is crying poverty.”

Open negotiations will continue through Friday from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. this week and next at the CEA’s headquarters on Main Street in Prince Frederick.

snewman@somdnews.com