A mediator is expected to be appointed to work out an agreement.
Frederick, Md (KM) An impasse has been reached between the Frederick County Board of Education and the Frederick County Teachers Association in talks on a new contract. The two sides had been in negotiation since January.
Missy Dirks, the President of the FCTA, says the main sticking point has to do with teacher planning time. She noted that elementary school teachers have a number of subjects to teach, and they have to plan for all of those blocks of instruction. “Plus they have to grade. They have to provide meaningful feedback for students. They have to communicate with families. And there’s already very limited time to do that within the day,” she says.
Planning time is just as important for middle and high school teachers who may only teach one or two subjects, but have multiple classes to teach. . “Most teachers spend volunteer time outside of their work day to get those tests done. And the Board is proposing to take some of that time away,” says Dirks.
Dirks says planning time is especially important as the school system reopens fully following a pandemic. “There are going to be wider ranges of how our students come to us and how their needs need to be met. And we have very diverse learners within the system. So teachers are going to be needing more time, not less time, in order to be prepared to meet those needs.”
In a statement, the Board of Education says it has put forward a “generous and highly competitive offer” in negotiations with the FCTA. “The offer reflects the value and appreciation this Board has for the work of educators,” the statement says. “The Board greatly values and appreciates the important role that teachers play every day in the development and success of our students.”
The School Board reached agreement with two of its employee bargaining units, the The Frederick County Administrative and Supervisory Association (FCASA) and the Frederick Association of School Support Employees (FASSE), and is expected to ratify those agreements during its July 14th, 2021 meeting.
“We’ve had a very long negotiated season with FCTA, and I can’t say that I am surprised,” says Board of Ed President Jay Mason. “There are some things that both sides wanted and we couldn’t come to an agreement on it.” He said he didn’t believe he was at liberty to discuss the issues which kept the two sides apart.
The two sides will request the Public School Labor Relations Board to issue a declaration of an impasse. After that, the two sides will meet with a third-party mediator to try and come up with an agreement. Mason says he’s hopeful a new contract can be hammered out. “At this point, some sides are not going to get what they want. Obviously, I want both sides to come out with something,” he said.
“I have never gone through impasse as president. So I’m not exactly sure how it is going to take,” says Dirks. “But it is not a quick process from what I understand.”
By Kevin McManus