2 unions, schools negotiate 2% raise Members expected to vote this month


Teachers and other groups of Carroll County school employees would receive a 2 percent across-the-board raise under the terms of tentative agreements between two school employees unions and the Board of Education.

The Carroll County Education Association, which represents about 1,300 teachers, sent the proposal to its members Monday after two months of negotiating with the school board bargaining team.

"I think it's the best we can get," said Ralph C. Blevins, president of the teachers union. "I never feel that teachers are getting paid for everything they do in their jobs, but that's true everywhere, not just in Carroll County."

The union representing school instructional assistants, secretaries and licensed practical nurses also has reached a tentative agreement with the school board that would give its employees a 2 percent raise. The agreement is to be released to members this week.

"I think everything went well at the bargaining table," said Sharon Fischer, president of the Carroll Association of School Employees, which represents about 350 workers.

Members of both unions will vote on the proposals this month. The school board is expected to consider the school employees' contract at its meeting next month.

School system employees also are represented by three other unions.

William Rooney, director of personnel for Carroll schools and the school board's lead negotiator for talks with the Association of Public School Administrators and Supervisors, said the board and the association are close to a tentative agreement.

The board and the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees have reached a tentative agreement, but the union representative, Carl Welsh Jr., declined to discuss it.

The union representing food-service workers could not be reached for comment.

Under the agreement between the teachers union and the school board, the starting salary of a first-year teacher would increase by $537, from $26,815 to $27,352.

"It's not as high as we'd like it to be, but that's where we ended up," said Stephen Guthrie, a personnel specialist with the school system and lead negotiator for the board bargaining team.

Guthrie said it's unclear whether Carroll's ranking in the state for beginning teachers -- 15th of 24 jurisdictions -- would drop.

"My hope is that we stay at 15 and not lose ground, because it's not much of a raise," he said. "But it's comparable to what everybody else [in the state] is getting."

Under the tentative agreement for the teachers union, the school board would continue to pay 100 percent of health insurance premiums. The agreement calls for the Carroll County Education Association and the board to work toward a 10 percent cost-savings on health insurance next year. Blevins said this goal might be achieved by changing health plans or asking employees to pay a portion of their insurance premiums.

Union and school board negotiators agreed to form an insurance advisory committee that will meet in the fall to explore health plan changes and premium sharing.

As in previous years, the issue of lesson-planning time for elementary teachers -- an area that is not covered by the contract -- generated much discussion in the negotiations.

Blevins said the union failed to win more planning time for teachers but tried to make sure that they are able to use allotted time to plan instead of handling other matters. He said elementary teachers frequently must use planning time for parent calls or to attend meetings to discuss needs of special education students.

"We don't dispute these things need to be done, but it takes away from preparation for classes," Blevins said.

This is the second year that unions representing school employees have used a bargaining technique called "collaborative negotiations" in contract talks.

Instead of taking adversarial positions, the two sides meet at the start of the negotiations to identify common interests, then work to reach solutions.

"In years past," Guthrie said, "the union would come to the table and say we want a 10 percent raise, and we'd say we can't do that, you're getting a 1 percent raise, and we'd each hack away at each other's positions."

Fischer said the collaborative approach allows for an open exchange of ideas and a team-oriented approach to problems.

"It's group effort, not this side against that side," Fischer said.

Pub Date: 5/06/98

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