First school union reaches settlement Deal gives secretaries lower insurance costs


The first union to settle with the Board of Education agreed yesterday to accept only step and longevity increases, with no cost-of-living raise.

However, leaders for the Carroll Association School Employees said they had expected to sacrifice cost-of-living raises for other issues they won, such as family leave and lower health insurance payments for most members.

William Hyde, assistant superintendent of administration, would not speculate whether the other four unions would be offered the same type of package.

"That depends on the skill of the negotiators on both sides," Hyde said. Each union negotiates with a different team of administrators, all of whom are given parameters from the board, he said. The teachers and administrators negotiate with the board's lawyer.

CASE reached a tentative agreement yesterday on all issues except a sick leave bank, which they will negotiate Friday. A sick leave bank would allow employees to donate leave to be used by people who exhaust their own leave.

All unions this year are pressing for expansion of family leave -- use of sick leave to care for family members. It is allowed now only for immediate family members who live with the employee.

The issue was especially important for CASE because most of the secretaries, assistants and licensed practical nurses it represents are women, said C. Steven Bittner, chief negotiator. Bittner is a staff member of the Maryland State Educational Services Council, with which CASE is affiliated.

"People who always end up doing this, in our society, are women," Bittner said of caring for sick relatives. "We're the ones that raised the issue. Most of our people have children who have left home or they have elderly parents."

The contract next year will allow them to use five days to care for a spouse, adult children or elderly parents even if they don't live in the same household. Also, it will allow them to care for any member of the family who does live in their household regularly, such as a sister or grandparent.

Edwin Davis, director of pupil services and special programs, headed the board's negotiators.

CASE, whose members typically earn $12,000 to $16,000 per school year, agreed to a health insurance package with a lower share of the premium. The board would pay the whole premium && for individual coverage, and 95 percent for spouse and family plans.

CASE compromised on a new clause that limits the number of days union officials may take off work to attend to union business.

Though the union pays for substitutes on those days, school officials said it had become disruptive in the case of one employee who was taking off nearly every other day for union business. The limit now is 16 days. That does not include 10 days a year when the president of the union attends school board meetings, or any days spent on negotiations.

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