Board, unions settle on health plan

Contract durations also signed off

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Calvert County Board of Education and the unions representing both the county's teachers and support staff were able to sign off on two contract items during joint negotiations on Monday.

The Calvert Education Association, or CEA, which represents the county's teachers, and the Calvert Association of Educational Support Staff, or CAESS, were able to come to resolutions with the board's negotiating team on both healthcare and contract durations.

Both unions have been negotiating with the board for the past couple months on new contracts.

For contract durations, it was decided that both contracts will be for three years, however, for both unions the article regarding salary will be re-opened each year.

Additionally, for CEA the article regarding compensation — which handles all extra payment not included in salaries — will also be re-opened.

Calvert County Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Robin Welsh, the board's chief negotiator, also said that every year each side will be able to pick two other articles to open, meaning there could be a maximum of five articles per union re-negotiated each year.

CAESS President Steven Brooks said he was pleased that the salary articles would be able to be re-examined on an annual basis.

"We'll just deal with it every year until the economy gets better," he said.

When it comes to healthcare, both unions and the board agreed to raise the overall premium each employee will pay from 8 to 10 percent.

Co-pays, however, which the board initially proposed to raise, will be kept where they are with $10 for primary care physician visits; $10 for outpatient hospital visits; and $25 for emergency room hospital visits.

The only change in co-pays is that generic prescription drugs will now cost $10 instead of the original $8.

The board also agreed to the unions' proposal to have eyeglasses and contact lens replacements covered every 12 months instead of every 24.

It was decided between the board and both unions to keep the article regarding healthcare closed for all three years of the contract unless both sides agree it should be re-opened.

As of Monday there are only five items that have yet to be signed in the CEA contract: teacher evaluations; sick leave; compensation; general provisions; and salary.

Christy Burch of North Beach, who is currently running as a Democrat for the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners, attended Monday's negotiations and said that she saw salaries as a huge sticking point.

"I think [the board] should try to honor what was taken away in the last contract," Burch said of the 2010 fiscal year contract in which all Calvert County public school system employee had their cost of living salary adjustment decreased from the initially contracted 4.5 percent to 0.5 percent.

"I don't think the teachers are receiving the support from the administration that they deserve," said Burch, who currently teaches at Anne Arundel and Prince George's community colleges.

"When times are tough they take away money but when times are good they don't say, ‘Hey, let's give you more money,'" she said.