The Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County and the Board of Education will meet with a third-party mediator after the Maryland Public School Labor Relations Board determined that the parties have reached an impasse in negotiating work and pay.
In a statement Tuesday, the union said at issue was extra work being asked of teachers, as the system faces a shortage of substitute teachers and works to provide online access to lessons that was unprecedented before the pandemic.
“Issues giving rise to impasse include the county’s insistence on adding one evening of unpaid work at the close of bargaining in July, which the county then increased to three unpaid days after TAAAC filed for impasse,” the union said in the statement.
Superintendent George Arlotto and Board President Melissa Ellis addressed the alleged changes to workload in a statement issued at the end of October.
“While new initiatives have been implemented to address the impact of COVID in our schools, the board has not made unilateral changes regarding the terms and conditions of employment relating to workload and safety,” it said.
On Wednesday, Ellis said the board has supported catching teachers up on contracted pay increases which were skipped during the financial recession more than a decade ago. She said she cannot speak to the specifics of negotiations, but said she thinks those past actions speak for themselves. She hopes to resolve the impasse quickly.
“We want what our teachers want,” she said. “We want them to be appropriately paid and well-supported in their positions.”
During the board’s regular meeting Wednesday, TAAAC and its supporters wore red shirts and scarves to show their solidarity with one another. Nov. 15-19 is American Education Week, the 100th anniversary. TAAAC President Russell Leone addressed the board, saying teachers are taking action to enforce their contract this week.
He said the week is about informing the public about the accomplishments of schools, but also informing them of what is needed to have the best schools possible to secure their support of that vision.
“Have we addressed the needs of our public schools by ensuring every student has a teacher who isn’t overworked or a teacher assistant who isn’t pulled from them frequently to cover other classes?” Leone said. “Have we addressed the needs of public schools by making sure we have a system that can recruit and retain educators so we don’t have any unfilled positions?”
Leone said the National Education Association, which TAAAC is a part of, established American Education Week 100 years ago, after working with the American Legion to address the 25% illiteracy rate among World War 1 draftees.
“It was our union who recognized the value of public schools to add to our society in 1921 and it is our union today that advocates for those same values,” Leone said.