She recalled having her Joppatowne Elementary School pupils send e-mails to their counterparts at Magnolia Elementary in 1988, and teaching students to do online research during the early 1990s.

"It was just amazing to me that my kids could access any library in the world from this computer," she said.

Boksz spent her first 15 years in Harford County teaching at Joppatowne and at Dublin Elementary. She then began working with faculty at UMBC, teaching them to incorporate technology into their classes, and later worked with colleges and taught elementary school in Colorado.

The Baltimore native, who moved to Harford in the late 1970s, returned to Harford County Public Schools six years ago, in part to care for her mother.


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She said her favorite part of teaching is "just seeing the light in the kids' eyes when they catch on to something."

Boksz said she might volunteer in schools or substitute teach, since the profession also gave her "the joy of sharing what you know."

Union action

The Harford County Education Association spent months in 2011 and 2012 battling the school system in court and before the Maryland Public School Labor Relations Board in order to obtain cost-of-living salary increases and salary steps.

There was $7.7 million allocated in the school system's original proposed FY14 budget that would have funded an additional 1 percent raise next school year for teachers and most other school employees, as well as annual step raises teachers receive as they complete additional years of service and gain more experience in the classroom, as well as meeting certain education targets.

Ryan Burbey, president of the Harford County Education Association, the local teachers' union, said he would be willing to return to the legal battle since the school board declined to fund the steps.

"That's just completely unacceptable," Burbey said Monday. "Some form of compensation whether it's monetary or some form of non-monetary compensation, has to happen."

He said that as of June 10 and going through next school year, Harford County teachers are "working to rule," meaning they will only complete duties "explicitly defined" in their contract.

"They won't be staying after and working after their duty day, except as required," he said.

Burbey said Harford County teachers have not had step increases in four out of the past five years – the only one coming at the start of the just completed school year, and many are looking for work in counties which do have step raises funded – or are even seeking work "outside of teaching."

"For teachers early on in their career that's essential because they're expected to get a master's in 10 years," he said of the annual step salary increases.

No teachers were laid off in Harford's neighbor across the Susquehanna River, Cecil County, historically considered less affluent than Harford.

Lori Hrinko, president of the Cecil County Classroom Teachers Association, said some positions will be lost through attrition, but "nobody will be losing their jobs."

Cecil County teachers also agreed to a three-year contract and a cost of living adjustment capped at 2 percent, depending on the national Consumer Price Index this fall.

County's position

Though Craig, the county executive – who recently announced his candidacy for governor, declined to provide all of the local funds requested by school officials for next year, he set aside about $1.5 million more in additional county money for the school system, about $19 million less than what school officials had asked for.

"Many of our neighbors are facing 20 percent cuts to their salaries and even layoffs as a result of federal sequestration," Craig wrote in a letter to local media in late May. "The uncertainty and strain that this places on the household budgets of so many of Harford's citizens troubles me, and coupled with a national economy that continues to lag, I felt that implementing tax increases to fund growth in the county budget was not a practical or responsible option at this time."

Members of the county council sealed Craig's actions on the school budget, when they approved final adoption of the county's 2014 budget at their legislative session on June 4.

With Burbey, many teachers and some parents in the audience, the council members cited reasons for their actions, such as the economic downturn and a steady decline in school system enrollment, some pointing out that to give more money to the schools would require either reducing other government services or raising taxes, or both.

"The point is that it's a lot of money, and there's no way the county council can come up with $19 million to restore what the county executive couldn't find," Councilman Guthrie said that night. "We couldn't find it either."

The school system's reaction – the position cuts, layoffs, new fees – came six nights later.