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The Calvert Education Association retracted its open house boycott stance yesterday afternoon after receiving word from the school system that the boycott violated the contract language between the CEA and Calvert County Public Schools.

The Calvert Education Association took a stand for teachers this summer after budget constraints prevented members of the Calvert County Board of Education to include yearly raises for teachers for the upcoming school year.

In response, the Calvert Education Association made a public decision to encourage teachers to boycott the open houses held at the beginning of the school year. Open houses are an opportunity for parents and families of students to meet their child’s teacher, school community and become familiar with what the upcoming school year will bring.

The first open house of the new school year was held Thursday evening at Sunderland Elementary School for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten families. On Friday, Debbie Russ, president of the CEA, said a small group of teachers did not attend the open house on the CEA directive. Daniel Curry, superintendent of Calvert County Public Schools, said the principal and vice principal of Sunderland Elementary showed a PowerPoint presentation to the families that attended. Curry did not know how many teachers, if any, attended the open house.

About 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Russ sent an email to all staff retracting the boycott.

“I must retract my email statement and request of August 13, 2014 asking you to ‘boycott CCPS Open House,’” Russ wrote in her email.

She explained the request was based on contract language stating the CEA “will encourage teachers to participate” in “parent teacher association events and other school-related activities,” including Open House.

“I must strongly suggest and encourage all members of CEA and the CEA bargaining unit to attend their OPEN HOUSE activities,” Russ wrote in her email.

On Friday, Russ said the Board of Education attorneys found a “legal loophole” that prompted her sudden email Thursday.

“A large boycott could be construed as a strike and a strike is illegal in Maryland,” Russ said, adding that the retraction is “a little setback, but you expect that it’s the nature of the business.”

On Wednesday, the CEA purchased an advertisement in The Calvert Recorder promoting the boycott and the reasoning behind it being because the Board of Education failed to give teachers raises.

“I’m sure they didn’t like it,” Russ said of the board members’ reaction to the full page advertisement. “…The point was to let the community know what is going on.”

Curry said he did not believe an Open House boycott was an “appropriate way” for teachers to express their concerns.

“My understanding is that the CEA is discouraging the boycotting,” Curry said. “ … open house time is an important time, and it’s a really difficult decision for teachers because they value it as much as the parents do. They value the opportunity to connect with the parents, and I hope they find another way to communicate their concerns.”

snewman@somdnews.com