Harford teacher, supporters urge council to give teachers more money

A Harford County Public Schools teacher and her supporters urged the County Council again Tuesday night to help fully fund teacher raises and stay on par with surrounding counties.

Meredith Heldt, of Abingdon, said she has been passionate about Harford County schools since she began working as a substitute teacher in 2007 and was originally thrilled to work full-time at Edgewood Elementary School for about $41,000 a year.

By the third year, she started to become disappointed, after the school system failed to provide the raise she said she had been promised in her contract.

After six years with her school, Heldt said she hasn't had any meaningful increase. She noted a fellow teacher went to Cecil County Public Schools to make more than $50,000.

Heldt said she would have re-considered her decision to stay in Harford had she known she would be working for a county where teachers are among the lowest paid in the state.

"I am so disheartened that I, too, looked into other counties," she said, noting the school system still had teacher vacancies to fill with the start of school coming up on Aug. 25.

As of late last week, the school system still had 52 vacancies, according to an HCPS spokesperson.

Three students spoke in support of Heldt and other teachers.

LaShelle Bray, a parent of two of the students, said she has lived in the county for eight years and is "dismayed at what I have seen happen in the last few years."

She said constant teacher turnover leads to too much unfamiliarity. She also said students would be "devastated" if teachers like Heldt left.

"I pray you'll really consider what you're losing if you don't start compensating teachers and keep the contract that you made with them," she said.

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