Howard school board to sign contracts with several unions

The Howard County Board of Education announced last week that it had reached tentative agreements with the majority of the bargaining units in the Howard County Public School System, but negotiations with the teachers' union are ongoing.

Under the tentative agreements, employees, including custodians, school-based administrators, support educators and food service workers, all will receive a full-step pay increase in fiscal 2014.


Agreements were reached with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Howard County Administrators Associations, the Howard County Education Association-Educational Support Professionals and the Howard County Food Service Association.

"We have incredibly dedicated, hard-working and effective employees," Superintendent Renee Foose said in a news release announcing the agreements. "It's important to me that all of our employees are compensated appropriately."

Negotiations, however, are ongoing with the Howard County Education Association, the group that represents 4,500 teachers and other school and central office employees. According to school officials, meetings with the Howard County Home and Hospital Teachers Association are on hold pending a review of the system's home and hospital program.

The tentative agreements are being ratified by the groups' members, and will be formally ratified and signed at the board meeting Thursday, June 27.

"Our employees are largely responsible for our school system's success and adequate compensation plays a key role in being able to attract and retain qualified staff," said Board Chairman Frank Aquino.

On Tuesday, June 25,  HCEA President Paul Lemle said a counterproposal had been sent Monday, June 24 to the board for consideration, and the union was waiting for a response. He said he hopes the spirit of the agreements between other bargaining units — specifically the administration — is honored for teachers as well.

"HCEA fully supports the tentative agreements reached by educational support professional, custodians and food service managers," Lemle said. "The agreement with administrators, however, is a sweetheart deal that reflects the Board of Education's failure to prioritize front-line educators."

Elementary and middle school assistant principals that were formerly 11-month employees are now 12-month employees, and the first step on the pay scale increased from $72,590 to $79,189. The top pay step for those assistant principals went from $121,184 to $132,540. The new contract also includes 20 days of paid leave for the 12-month assistant principals.

A pay increase for a teacher on the first step of the pay scale, Lemle said, likely would be less than $200.

"A teacher's career is a 30-year, step-by-step journey from a near poverty-level wage to a decent income," he said. "When HCEA bargains, our top priority is to improve lifetime earnings."