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Teachers seek state's aid in getting contract


The Teachers Association of Baltimore County will ask the state superintendent of schools, the governor and county officials for help in winning a contract for its 6,000 teachers.

TABCO says the county school board "circumvented" the state's bargaining process last week by imposing a "master program" instead of continuing to work toward a contract.

That program is a "drastic departure from what's been instituted before in Baltimore County," said Michael Bond, TABCO vice president.

Twice when the board imposed a master program, it addressed only "those items that were in dispute" and left all other provisions of the previous contract in effect, he said. The master program also previously was imposed only after an impasse had been declared and a mediator's settlement rejected, he said.

This time the board not only imposed a 4 percent raise -- an issue that was in dispute -- but took away the teachers' right to a grievance procedure and a transfer policy introduced last year. It also did not wait for state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick to rule on the impasse.

The board maintains that the lack of an answer from her was the same as a denial.

The union disagrees. TABCO leaders say that by not waiting for Dr. Grasmick's answer, the "board has circumvented the state bargaining law," which may make the imposition of the master contract illegal.

The union also said in a news release that the board's action is "an attempt to silence TABCO" and to spread "fear and intimidation" among teachers.

The board and school officials deny there is anything punitive about the master program.

"We are requesting of Nancy Grasmick a decision on impasse as soon as she returns," Mr. Bond said.

Dr. Grasmick is on vacation until Wednesday.

The union also will hand-deliver letters today to County Executive Roger B. Hayden and County Councilman Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger III, a Democratic candidate for executive, asking them for help in getting information it says it needs to determine if the school system can afford to give teachers the 6 percent raise agreed on in November.

The two sides reopened negotiations in June after the County Council approved a budget with less money for raises than the board proposed. The union maintains there is additional money because administrators are getting more than a 4 percent raise. Board chief negotiator Donald Kopp said some administrators are getting as much as a 9 percent increase next year because of a restructuring of the administrators' scale.

In a meeting in late June, school administrators assured TABCO's negotiating team that they would supply the information once TABCO put its request in writing, said Mark Beytin, chairman of TABCO's negotiation team.

However, in response to TABCO's request, Mr. Kopp sent answers to only two of six inquiries, saying in his letter that "the staff views these questions as irrelevant to the issue at hand and compiling that information for you would require a great deal of unavailable time and effort."

TABCO's executive director, Tom Harvey, said late Friday the union is trying to resolve the situation without litigation.

TABCO's letter to Gov. William Donald Schaefer will say the union considers the board's actions to be in violation of the "precepts and beliefs" of the county schools, Mr. Bond said.

The governor will be appointing four members to the board -- two for the seats of incumbents whose terms have expired and two for new seats added by the General Assembly this spring. One of the incumbents seeking reappointment is Paul Cunningham, who was elected board president last week and who presided over the board's decision to impose the master program.

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