Howard teachers cut volunteer work No raise, no extra activities, teachers say.


There won't be any two-hour chess matches at Oakland Mills High School this year.

Unless chess players reach checkmate by 3:10 p.m. their games will be postponed.

The chess club will meet from 2:30 p.m. until school is dismissed 40 minutes later, says Rick Bantz, the club's sponsor. But at 3:10, when school is dismissed, he will not stay on his own time as he has for the last six years.

Bantz and other teachers will head home, and students won't be able to stay while unsupervised.

Teachers at Oakland Mills and most Howard County public schools are refusing to volunteer for extracurricular activities to protest the decision by County Executive Charles I. Ecker not to fund the 6 percent raise in their current three-year contract.

Parents attending a tense back-to-school meeting at Oakland Mills High last night gave a mixed reaction to the teachers' decision.

Some supported it while others in the auditorium of more than 200 parents grumbled when Bantz and other Howard County Education Association officials explained their position.

"I know they feel they're right, but they're hurting the kids," Denise Jones said after the meeting. "I know there are many teachers involved in the job action who are dedicated, but now you have to wonder what they're dedicated to -- helping students or improving their own situation."

Jones' daughter, Tia Fossett, is a junior who is involved in various activities, including cheerleading. However, the cheerleading squad this year is being run by the sister of one member because no teacher volunteered to help. Teachers have left a number of clubs without sponsors, and there is doubt they will help out with several after-school functions such as dances during the year.

Jones said parents like herself are going to have to pitch in to keep student clubs and organizations going.

"As parents, we're talking about being here for the kids," Jones said.

Scott Hicks, whose daughter Sarah is president of the school's National Honor Society, said he was ambivalent. He supported the teachers' effort to get their negotiated raises but he wondered how it would affect his daughter in her senior year.

Hicks said he was glad, at least, that parents were getting more involved in the school.

"As a whole, that's lacking, not just this year but every other year," he said. "It's just a heck of a way to enforce it."

Craig Washington said he supports the teachers, but he is against the drive to enlist parents to run the school programs because he believes it will ease the pressure that Ecker and other county officials should bear from the job action. He said teachers still should get their 6 percent raises.

"Teachers are underpaid like crazy -- are you kidding?" said Washington, who acknowledged that he may have more sympathy for teachers because he works as an administrator for a community college in Northern Virginia.

However, Washington worries that teachers may volunteer only to help students they like and some may discriminate on the basis of race. He is concerned that some teachers would be more willing to spend their personal time writing letters of recommendation to colleges for white seniors than for blacks.

Teachers at Oakland Mills voted not to participate in any activity, but students say some already have offered to help with some programs. HCEA members who appeared at the meeting tried to convince parents that their action would not harm academics and that it was aimed at county officials, not students.

"I wish that we could address Dr. Ecker in a way that didn't look like it was hurting students," said William Craig, a mathematics teacher at Oakland Mills. "I know that the desire to help students is as great as it ever was."

Bantz, the chess club sponsor, said he still is hoping that teachers will get their raises, although the county and school board's budgets were adopted last spring. Although he won't stay around for chess after dismissal, he said, he will perform the duties for which he is paid.

"I'm still going to grade papers, I'm still going to develop lesson plans, I'm still going to play chess with the students and I'm still going to coach soccer," he said. "We want to apply enough parental support to let Chuck Ecker and the County Council understand that we need to have the negotiated agreement funded."

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