'Teachers want him gone,' educator says of Harford superintendent

Many teachers in the Harford County public school system don't want Superintendent Robert Tomback as their leader, a Harford teacher said during a community meeting Wednesday night.

Trina Hill, a Harford County teacher and member of the Edgewood Community Council, said during the community council's meeting that she and many teachers have had it with Tomback, who has led the school system since the start of the 2009-10 school year.

"Teachers want him gone," Hill said.

She suggested to Robert Frisch, who represents the Edgewood and Joppa areas on the county board of education and was at Wednesday's meeting, that the board survey teachers for their views about Tomback. The Harford system, with 38,000 students, has about 3,000 teachers.

Hill was visibly upset and frustrated when talking about the lack of raises for teachers in the past three years, as well as Harford County Executive David Craig's one-time bonus offer that so far has fallen through for the teachers.

Frisch, who was at the meeting to update the community on the Tomback's proposed $471,827,994 budget for 2013 that was introduced at Monday's school board meeting, told the Edgewood community they are "running the risk, in Harford County, of falling behind" in competitive salaries with surrounding counties.

Tomback's first budget in 2010 proposed a 2 percent reduction in pay for all of the school system's 5,000 employees; however, the school system worked with the county executive and county council to avoid such cut.

Last year, Tomback proposed a 3 percent pay increase for all employees, plus two step raises for eligible teachers to make up for the one they did not get in 2010. The county executive and council did not make additional funds available for the raises; however, and the teachers union has the issue in arbitration.

There are differences of opinion where Tomback stood initially on the Craig bonus plan, although Craig has said the superintendent cooperated with him and was not the reason the employees represented by the local teachers union didn't get the bonus, after the union's president tried to use it as a salary bargaining chip.

The salary issue, Frisch said Wednesday, is "beyond our [the board of education] control," as the school system must still have a substantial portion of its annual operating budget approved by the county executive and county council.

Hill asked Frisch if the proposed budget includes raises for the teachers, to which he responded that the majority of the budget, if approved, would go toward salary increases, but he reiterated that it was "at the mercy of the county executive and county council."

Hill, who also has children in the Harford County school system, said teachers who work in the schools along the Route 40 corridor, more specifically in Edgewood and Joppa, have a more difficult job because of troubled students, families under the poverty line and homeless children.

She asked Frisch how the county intends to hire teachers in that area without raises, and added that she, as well as several of her co-workers, have been applying for jobs Baltimore City and County.

"The county doesn't want to say it — it's harder," she reiterated about those teachers in nearby Route 40 schools. Frisch, who is a teacher in the Baltimore County system, agreed with Hill that those institutions do seem more difficult to work in, saying a third time the money for raises depends on the county's approval.

"At this point, I don't know who to trust," Hill said, referring to the board of education's tension with Craig, the county executive.

"We hear it," Frisch replied.

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