County principals will vote this month on a three-year contract similar to what they have but calling for a greater salary increase than other unions received.

Members of the Association of Education Leaders, the union representing county principals, would get a substantial pay raise in the first year of the contract. It would be higher than any other union in the school system. The exact amount will be setduring negotiations next month.

For the rest of the contract, principals would get salary increases equal to those given other county unions.

AEL Executive Director Richard Kovelant describes the salary clause as a "most-favored-nation" status.

"We want some assurances that we will be treated fairly," Kovelant said. "If the fire department gets a raise, the board will request the money from the County Council. By contract, they willbe asking for the same thing for AEL. Whether the county supplies itor not is always a problem. But they have an obligation to go to thecounty for it."

In October, AEL will discuss with the board how special education students should be counted in high schools. Principals -- whose salaries are based on the number of students they supervise -- are asking that those students be counted three times in determining staffing and needs.

AEL is the only union among the four negotiating with the board that did not declare an impasse. But they must deal with a neutral arbitrator's recommendation that a wider gap beestablished between principal and teacher salaries.

Kovelant saidthe board needs to recognize a pay differential, the amount and how it should be implemented.

"The (arbitrator's) report suggests thatthe best way for that to be done is to tie us in with teachers. Whatever teachers get, AEL should get. The board turned it down," he said.

AEL leaders complained that few explanations were given for items turned down by the board.

After reaching an agreement at the endof the school year, both sides spent part of the summer making minorchanges to contract language. A vote is expected within the next fewweeks.

AEL members had asked that the union be allowed to file grievances on their behalf. Also, the union wanted the right to collecta shop fee for representing principals, assistant principals and psychologists who are not members of AEL. Now they are represented by the union without charge.

Kovelant complained that the school systemis allowed to decrease principals' salaries if they do not willinglyaccept transfers.

"There is an ambiguity in the language," he said. "If you voluntarily accept a transfer, there is no change in pay, but if your supervisor asks you to accept a transfer and you say no, you may hold your salary (at its current level) for a year. After that, all bets are off."

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