Teachers at Hickory Elementary School near Bel Air became the latest group Thursday to protest what several teachers describe as a lack of respect from the board of education and Harford County government.
Verna Hiser, who has taught at the elementary school for nine years, said she decided to attend the rally outside school Thursday afternoon because "as a staff, we want to show we're sticking together."
As the teachers' school day ended at 3:50 p.m., a group of about 30 marched out and moved onto non-school property near busy Route 1 (Conowingo Road), many holding up signs that declared "fully fund education" and "support those who support your kids."
"We're tired of bouncing back and forth between the board of education and county," Hiser said, adding that teachers feel like "pawns" in an ongoing battle between the two entities.
Hiser explained why the "working to rule" policy, that has been part of the protest, will be such a big change for teachers, who, at many schools around the county, are beginning to come in at the start of the school day and leave when it technically ends.
The previous evening she was at school working until 8 p.m., Hiser said.
"You can't run effective programs if you're not here extra hours," she said of the consequences.
During June, Hiser continued, she will have a total of three weekdays off, even though the last technical day for teachers is June 14, because of committee meetings.
Martin Pastor, a third year music teacher, held up a sign along Conowingo Road that said "Honk! If you support education!" encouraging drivers to blare their horns in recognition.
Pastor pointed out that he is still earning a beginning teacher's salary.
"We're not complaining about not getting money," he said. "You don't become a teacher because of the paycheck. You become a teacher to protect the future."
Pastor feels, however, that the teachers aren't being protected by those responsible for funding the schools.
Harford County Education Association President Randy Cerveny, head of the teachers' union, was also at the Hickory protest, just as he was at last Friday's in front of Ring Factory Elementary School, and mentioned that about 75 people at Fallston High School were planning to leave at 2:20 p.m. Friday, similar to what Bel Air High School teachers did earlier in the week.
Next week, he continued, there will be even more job actions.
"A lot of schools are getting involved in this," Cerveny said on the phone earlier Thursday. Although he couldn't name the specific schools, he mentioned that teachers at least 25 Harford County Public Schools facilities will participate in similar protests June 6 and 7.
Under the "working to rule" policy, teachers follow their contracts exactly and begin and end their days when the school day begins and ends.
On Tuesday, a large number of Bel Air High teachers walked out of the school en masse at 2:20 p.m. as a form of protest.
Teachers at Joppatowne High School, Ring Factory Elementary and Bakersfield Elementary have all adopted the policy, Cerveny said.
Special school board meeting
Later that night, 40 to 50 teachers attended the special Harford County Board of Education meeting at the A. A. Roberty building in Bel Air, with a handful speaking against the board and asking for respect.