Saying they are frustrated with the lack of progress in contract talks with the school board, the union representing Baltimore County's principals and curriculum staff asked state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick yesterday to declare an impasse.
"We exhausted all effort," said Carol T. Shaner, executive director of the Council of Administrative and Supervisory Employees, whose 800 members have been without a contract since June 30.
Shaner said negotiations on a new one-year contract, which began in November, have stalled over the union's request for a salary scale that would link pay increases to job longevity.
"Every other employee in the Baltimore County public schools, and to my knowledge every other Baltimore County employee, has some sort of a step scale," Shaner said. Other school and county employees receive 2 percent step increases each year.
This is the first time in CASE's eight-year history that it has asked that an impasse be declared.
County Superintendent Joe A. Hairston said in a statement that he remains open to more talks.
"I'm still sitting at the table, waiting to negotiate," he said.
Principals in Baltimore County earn $84,000 to $95,000; assistant principals $70,000 to $71,000; and curriculum staff members $74,000 to $79,000.
CASE says that is not enough. Baltimore County's supervisor salaries rank in the middle compared with those in other state school districts, and some veteran teachers make more than assistant principals, Shaner said.
Principals and curriculum staffers receive a cost-of-living adjustment annually. They also receive a pay raise after they have been in their jobs for five years.
Annual raises proposed
Shaner said the union wants to retain the cost-of-living increases and has also proposed annual raises for the first 13 years of administrative work and every three years after the 15th year.
In addition, principals and curriculum specialists would receive extra pay each year for having graduate degrees.
"We're not married to our scale," Shaner said. "What we're saying is the fact that our people don't have a scale means they are falling further and further and further behind their colleagues in the Baltimore County public schools and their colleagues in other systems."
Salaries are a sore subject for principals, who, studies have found, are central to student achievement.
Edward E. Cozzolino, former principal at Shady Spring Elementary, took a job as principal at a Baltimore public school this year. The job, part of a new state program, pays $125,000 a year, and Cozzolino said salary was a major reason for his making the switch.
The last formal talks between CASE and the school system were held in June, though the two sides have chatted informally over the summer.
"The frustration of our negotiating team is that generally the response of the board has not been forthcoming. When we make offers, there are no offers in return," said Paula Simon, CASE's president.
Mediator would step in
If Grasmick declares an impasse, a mediator will step in and try to resolve the dispute. The Maryland State Department of Education does not comment on impasse requests until the superintendent has notified both sides of a decision.
CASE's salary scale proposal would affect about 450 principals, assistant principals and curriculum specialists, who are former certified teachers, Shaner said.
The union also represents supervisors of transportation, cafeteria services and other support offices.
Some principals, saying CASE represents too many job classifications, are discussing establishing their own union.