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Educators stand in solidarity during the Wednesday, Dec. 12, Carroll County Public Schools Board of Education meeting, at which some six speakers talked about the need for better compensation when their contracts are up in June.
Educators stand in solidarity during the Wednesday, Dec. 12, Carroll County Public Schools Board of Education meeting, at which some six speakers talked about the need for better compensation when their contracts are up in June. (Emily Chappell / Carroll County Times)

In the last Board of Education meeting of the calendar year — a meeting that was a first for three new members — the Carroll County Public Schools board moved forward with the bid for the feasibility study for a possible East Middle School project.

The total cost of the study comes in at $60,522, nearly $40,000 under the spending limit that was set by Superintendent Steve Lockard’s recommendation, and was given to the Baltimore architectural firm Hord Coplan Macht.

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In addition to that approval, a large portion of Wednesday’s meeting was spent listening to a half-dozen educators — plus their union representatives — ask the board for better pay as the contract negotiation process continues.

Despite the Board of Education moving forward this week with recommendations for a feasibility study to help find a solution to the East Middle School dilemma, some members of the school board and Board of County Commissioners continue to disagree about a path forward.

The last contract, which was for three years, was ratified in June 2016.

The CCPS board room was packed for the meeting, filled with educators and school employees wearing red. Each time an educator spoke, the group would stand up in solidarity, often applauding after a speech was made during public comments.

The teachers who spoke told the school board how they’ve watched fellow teachers leave for neighboring counties; many said CCPS was like a training ground for other school systems. They spoke about how they took pay cuts for teaching in Carroll and, how even with the last contract — which included step raises for the first time in almost a decade — that they’re far behind fellow educators in the state.

Many said they struggled regularly to make ends meet.

Tom Scanlan, a teacher in the system, said it’s an exciting time for CCPS, with new leadership and new energy. But as someone who has been teaching in the county for more than 30 years, Scanlan said teachers are struggling.

“Teacher morale is low,” he said.

People can’t afford to teach here, he said, and are behind in steps. When asking colleagues in the system what they hope comes out of the new contracts, he said they want fair compensation.

“Every person that I’ve talked to said this,” he added.

Tony Roman, a CCPS educator and the chief negotiator for Carroll County Education Association, said while the union hoped there would be a contract ready by December or January, that has not been the case. He, too, spoke of the importance of raises in this coming contract.

“We are producing some of the best students in the state but not being compensated in the way that our fellow teachers are across the state,” he said.

The Carroll County Board of Education ratified the CCEA teachers union contract during its meeting Wednesday night.

Teresa McCulloh, CCEA president, spoke after the half-dozen union members did, solidifying their points and calling for raises.

McCulloh questioned if CCPS loses its educational lead, what would draw people to move to the county?

“We shouldn’t have to leave our roots, our homes, our families and our routines,” she said, later adding, “Pay us as professionals for what we deserve.”

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She pushed on, asking for teachers to be paid fairly for going above and beyond — working countless hours and weekends; for the workload they carry; for being on top in testing scores and the state’s recent report card rating; for taking on multiple roles each day to meet student needs; for spending their own money for classroom materials; for doing mandated paperwork that has nothing to do with instruction; and for dealing with traumatic situations.

“I could go on and on. But our presence, this sea of red before us tonight, speaks for itself,” McCulloh said, her speech met with applause from the audience.

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