Salary talks await stimulus decisions

The Baltimore Sun

The Howard County Education Association, which represents teachers and support workers, says it has postponed further salary negotiations with the school system until it gets a sense of President Barack Obama's economic stimulus package.

The union has met with the school system twice this academic year to negotiate before suspending the process, HCEA president Ann DeLacy said.

"After assessing the economic environment, both [sides] have decided to see what effects if any the Obama stimulus package would have on our county's economic status," she said.

Salaries will be a major point of emphasis in this year's school budget process. The $658.9 million proposed 2010 fiscal operating budget does not include money for increasing salaries at this point.

School officials say Sue Mascaro, the school system's director of staff relations and operations, is scheduled to meet with the school board Thursday to receive further direction on how to proceed with the negotiation process.

The issue was raised Wednesday during a meeting of the County Council and the school board. When asked how long the union could continue to postpone the process, superintendent Sydney L. Cousin said he expected the negotiations to resume by the end of the month.

Revising school capacities

The school board is contemplating adjusting its school capacity formula, which could push back a potential high school redistricting five years, until 2015.

The board also is mulling a change to renovation guidelines in hopes of bringing uniformity to future projects.

The capacity calculation changes, which would increase the system's overall capacity by 2,000 seats, will be voted on by the school board March 26. The renovation guidelines are scheduled for approval Feb. 26.

The proposed changes to the capacity formula would match the state's formula. Most schools' capacity would increase from the current 1,332 to just more than 1,500 for nine of the 12 high schools. Hammond would have the lowest capacity at 1,403, while Marriotts Ridge would have the largest at 1,573. The difference is that the new formula would count special education students.

"By using this formula, we are basically giving ourselves more space," schools spokeswoman Patti Caplan said. "We are ensuring that we position ourselves to handle that change."

The proposed renovation guidelines would provide minimum classroom square footage, and general building considerations that address green building principles and technology. There are also provisions to address the removal of asbestos floor tiles. Deviations from the guidelines would require a waiver process.

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