The Howard County Education Association and the school system plan to meet tomorrow to begin negotiations to establish a mandatory union fee to be paid by system employees.
The start of the negotiations, however, does not automatically mean that the union's leader, Ann DeLacy, plans to sign two contracts that would result in an increase in salaries.
DeLacy is staying mum on whether she will sign the contracts Thursday during the Board of Education meeting.
"We have until July 1 to sign it," she said. "We'll have to wait and see how negotiations go in terms of fair share."
Teachers and support staff likely will get their raises July 1 as scheduled, even if their contracts are not signed by then.
In a closed-door meeting last month, the Board of Education indicated it would grant the negotiated salary increases and health benefits by passing a resolution. Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin recommended the move.
The school system has maintained that the mandatory union fee, also referred to as "fair share," is separate from the employee contracts. HCEA leadership disagrees, saying that the contract will not be signed until the fair-share issue is negotiated. The mandatory fee would be paid by teachers and support staff who are not union members but who benefit from union services.
The disagreement is one of the first times that the union and school board have publicly clashed in recent years.
DeLacy hinted that the relationship between the board and the union is not as good as it has been in the past.
"We haven't had a contentious relationship with the Board of Education for a while," DeLacy said. "We've had a very good relationship in the past."
The school board met with the County Council on Wednesday morning to discuss school issues.
"It was a very quick meeting," Diane Mikulis, the school board chairman, said of the half-hour session.
Several council members who asked to be updated on issues such as the high school facilities study and problems related to a shortage of bus drivers were told that details were being worked out.
For example, Courtney Watson, a County Council member and former school board member, learned that the facilities study would not be unveiled until the school board's June 28 meeting.
County Council member Jen Terrasa was told that no decision had been made on a recommendation by Glenn Johnson, the former transportation director, to privatize a small fleet of buses to help fill in gaps.
"Our staff has not made a recommendation on that," said Mikulis, who said that the school system would reveal a position this month.
The Columbia Festival of the Arts announced this year that DoRonne Shyu, 13, an eighth-grader at Glenwood Middle School, won its annual poster contest. Her drawing - a black-and-white piece that features a violin, music staff, theater mask, several paint brushes and a single red rose - was purchased by the organization for $500 and is featured in this year's festival posters and brochures.
But a number of other students also received recognition in the competition.
Katherine Chen, 14, a ninth-grader at Centennial High School, won the Director's Choice.
The Juror's Choice went to Kenny Tsai, 8, a second-grader at Swansfield Elementary School.
Honorable mention went to Kelley Yang, 12, a seventh-grader at Trinity School.
Other honorees were kindergarten winner Alexander Liu, 6, of Manor Woods Elementary; first-grade winner Dylan Chao, 6, of Thunder Hill Elementary; second-grade winner Martin Wang, 8, of Bushy Park Elementary; third-grade winner Rachel Lin, 8, of Ilchester Elementary; fourth-grade winner Winnie Tsao, 9, of Waterloo Elementary; fifth-grade winner Elizabeth Byrley, 10, of Stevens Forest Elementary; sixth-grade winner Austin Lee, 11, of Bonnie Branch Middle; seventh-grade winner Pauline Shih, 12, of Clarksville Middle; eighth-grade winner Michael Hackett, 14, of St. Louis School; ninth-grade winner April Zhu, 14, of Centennial High; tenth-grade winner Robin Tu, 15, of Centennial High; and eleventh-grade winner Jennifer He, 16, of River Hill.
Three Howard County schools were recently named "green" schools by the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education.
MAEOE awards the status to schools that use the site of the facility, the community and the curriculum for wide-ranging environmental education.
The Howard County schools - Dunloggin Middle, Reservoir High, and West Friendship Elementary - are among this year's 27 inductees, which constitutes the largest group of "green" schools named in a single year.
In addition, Triadelphia Ridge Elementary was one of five schools in the state to become recertified as a "green" school.
Since the program started in 1999, 163 schools have achieved "green" school status.
On a high note
Michael Blackman, the band director at Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School, has been named Howard County Music Educator of the Year by the Howard County Parents for School Music.
In addition, Jackie DeBella, a strings teacher at Cradlerock School, and Kendall Davis, the band director at Pointers Run Elementary School, received honorable mentions.
Nominations were submitted by parents, teachers, and administrators, and nominees were evaluated by community members involved in the arts and education.