A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge last Friday ruled that the Montgomery County Board of Education had acted in "bad faith" three years ago when it ended its policy of employing some teachers and administrators on a 12-month basis, rather than the usual 10-month period.
Judge H. Ralph Miller did not assess a penalty of any kind against the school board, finding that "not every case, however, is properly solved by the intervention of the court."
The ruling effectively halts an unusual and lengthy case involving 1,800 of the 7,000 teachers in the school system. About 700 of them had originally sued both the school board and their own union, the Montgomery County Education Association, once their 12-month-a-year jobs were ended during the 1975-76 bargaining sessions.
Although claiming a victory in the court, William Offutt, the head of the 12-Month Teachers Association and Defense Fund, which brought the suit, stated in a press release that further appeals were "unlikely."
Herbert D. Benington, a school board member who was on the board during the 1975-76 negotiations, said this week, "We bargained in good faith on this. This is the first time I've ever heard of an agreement being negotiated 'in bad faith when both parties ended up with an agreement."
The judge's decision focused on a booklet the board had published shortly before it entered into its regular negotiating session with MCEA. In that document, "Choices for Our Children 1977," the board advocated ending the year-round employment of teachers and others, as was subsequently done.
The board shortly afterwards started contract negotiations and maintained the position it had taken in the booklet.
"On the basis of the pre-negotiation publicity (the publication of the booklet), the Court found the requisite bad faith," Judge Miller wrote.
"The timing and tone of 'Choices For Our Children,' in conjunction with the County Board's bargaining stance had to have a chilling effect on the negotiations and must be viewed as evidence of bad faith," Judge Miller wrote.
Although named a defendent in the original suit, MCEA was found to have acted in good faith during the negotiations, according to Judge Miller.
The county currently employs several hundred people during the summer, but does so on a per diem basis.