With a pen in one hand and an expressionless look on her face, Ann DeLacy sat silently in the audience at Thursday's school board meeting as she watched the representatives of the Howard County Home and Hospital Association and the Howard County School Food Service Association sign memos of understanding on negotiated agreements with the school system.
Moments earlier, when the time came for DeLacy, president of the Howard County Education Association, to sign labor contracts for teachers and support staff, she did not use the pen. Because negotiations to establish a mandatory union fee have not been completed, she declined to sign the agreements.
The contracts include increases in salaries for teachers and support workers.
"We're doing some serious negotiating," DeLacy said Friday. "We expect to complete the negotiating before July 1."
Teachers and support staff members likely will get their raises July 1 as scheduled, even if the 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 fee issue is negotiated. The mandatory fee would be paid by teachers and support staff members who do not belong to the union but benefit from union services.
Sue Mascaro, director of staff relations and operations for the school system, said the school system remains ready for the HCEA to sign the contracts.
"We're ready and willing," Mascaro said.
Cousin remained optimistic.
"We're just going to continue negotiations; and bring the negotiations to a conclusion," Cousin said. "That's what my goal is."
After years of negotiations and the reworking of legislation, Andrew Gavelek will make history July 1 as the first student member of the Howard County Board of Education to have partial voting rights.
Gavelek was officially sworn in to the position at Thursday's board meeting.
The swearing-in ceremony attracted many familiar faces, including County Council member Mary Kay Sigaty.
Sigaty was instrumental in passing a partial voting rights policy when she was a school board member.
"We finally got here," she said. "It's been a very long road."
Josh Michael, the 2005-2006 student member on the state Board of Education who was vocal in his support of voting rights for the Howard County student board member, was also in attendance.
"Students are now represented stakeholders in Howard County," Michael said. "I am extremely excited that Andrew Gavelek will serve as the first voting student member and am confident that he will take the student voice in Howard County to the next level."
Also in attendance were Jeff Lasser, the 2005-2006 Howard County student member on the board; Atholton High School Principal Marcy Leonard, who in 1988 was the first student associate; and Dan Furman, the 2001-2002 student associate, who was instrumental in future student members receiving an opinion vote.
Gavelek replaces Wossen Ayele, who said he has faith in his successor.
"I'm very happy that our first voting student member is as dedicated as Andrew," Ayele said.
Feli Carter, a longtime resident of Ellicott City, has been named president of Conexiones, a community group that promotes Hispanic education in Howard County.
Carter, an assistant commissioner with the Social Security Administration, replaces Murray Simon, who co-founded the organization in 2000.
"She's a very astute individual," Simon said. "She has a strong feeling for what we are doing with Conexiones."
Carter is known for her excellent communication skills; she regularly serves as master of ceremonies at Conexiones events such as the annual convocation celebration.
Carter, who is of Puerto Rican descent, brings a new look to the leadership of Conexiones, Simon said.
"The basic administration will be Hispanic," he said.