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Despite what they labeled "bad faith" negotiations, leaders of the Secretaries and Assistants Association of Anne Arundel County reluctantly are endorsing a one-year contract with the Board of Education.

Association members are scheduled to vote on the contract 4:30 p.m. today at Lake Waterford Park in Pasadena.

SAAAAC president Dee Zepp said members need the protection of a contract to avoid unfair transfers. But she complained board negotiators offered the 650 members little in exchange for no pay raise this year, overtime without compensation and understaffing of school secretaries.

"We were given peanuts," Zepp said. "We were asking for basic job security and better working conditions. The board's answer was, 'The previous language prevails.' "

No secretaries have been laid off, but 35 teaching assistants have been given pink slips over thelast three weeks. Twenty have been rehired.

Secretaries complain of being overworked. At Pershing Hill Elementary, for example, 441 students had been taken care of by one secretary since December. Board policy calls for two secretaries for schools with more than 400 students. A part-time secretary has since been added.

Zepp also complained that computer technicians, media workers and industrial arts repairmen are paid from the budget line slated for 344.5 secretaries. Moving those workers to another budget category, she said, would free upmoney for the secretaries.

"If Dr. Lorton (school superintendent)would remove these people, it would solve the problem," Zepp said. "It's like putting fish and birds together. He needs to relieve the pressure on school secretaries.

"It's very disappointing. It shows the lack of respect Dr. Lorton shows for his employees. I see a lack of caring."

Zepp said SAAAAC was seeking language requiring transfers based on seniority and a place for members to lock up their pursesand personal items. She reports that $1,300 was stolen from a countysecretary's bank account after her bank card was taken from school.

Secretaries were hoping to rid themselves of responsibilities normally assigned to school nurses, but the board did not budge on that item either.

"It is not working the way it is," Zepp said. "The secretary can not continue to carry the burden."

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