Teachers union ratifies agreement

A tentative agreement between the Howard County Board of Education and the Howard County Education Association has been ratified by the teachers union, HCEA announced Monday, July 25.

HCEA, which represents teachers and other certificated employees in the school system, had reached a stalemate in contract negotiations with the board in May. On June 30, the board announced it had finally reached a tentative agreement with the union, one day before teacher contracts were set to expire.

A resolution passed by the board that day maintained the existing language and salary scale of the 2011 fiscal contract until a final agreement is ratified.

Items up for negotiation this year included teacher evaluations, working hours, working conditions and salary. According to officials from both HCEA and the school system, the agreement provides a half-step, or incremental move on a salary schedule, in the next fiscal year, without cost-of-living adjustments. The second step of the salary increase will come at the beginning of fiscal year 2013.

The agreement still must be formally ratified by the Board of Education at its August 18 meeting.

Paul Lemle, HCEA president, said that while the union was in full support of the agreement, improved compensation allows the system to attract and retain better teachers. For that reason, he said, he hoped Superintendent Sydney Cousin would join him in lobbying County Council to do "more than the minimum" next year.

In a release from the union, Lemle said system employees are actually facing a pay cut.

"Because of the punitive increase in pension contributions passed by the General Assembly, most of the hard-working educators who make this school system one of the best in the nation are taking reductions in pay and benefits," he said.

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