The D.C. Board of Education voted unanimously yesterday to accept virtually all of a fact-finder's recommendations on how to settle the contract dispute with the city's 6,000 teachers.
School board president Minnie S. Woodson and other board members described the recommendations as providing an equitable solution to ending the conflict that triggered a 23-day teachers' strike and massive confusion in the city's 190 schools last spring.
Washington Teachers' Union president William H. Simons declined comment on the school board's action. He said 250 union leaders are studying the recommendations at their annual retreat at the Seven Springs mountain resort in Pennsylvania. He said he would respond to the board's statement today.
The school board, displaying an unusual degree of harmony, accepted all of fact-finder James M. Harkless' recommendations except his suggestions that the school board drop its controversial bid to lengthen the school year from 186 to 200 days and increase the school day by 1 1/2 hours for most teachers and by one hour and 15 minutes for teachers in vocational schools.
The school board, however, did back away from those proposals somewhat, suggesting that they be subject to further negotiation next year once the city's new personnel law has taken effect Jan. 1 and the new Public Employment Relations Board has set work rules and pay standards for city employees.
Under the school board's suggestion, either the union or the board could reopen negotiations on salaries or the length of the school year and work day within 30 to 60 days after the city announces the pew personnel regulations.
The school board also proposed that the contract take effect Sept. 1, run for three years and include various provisions that the two sides had agreed to before the fact-finding process began last April 26.
Woodson said she did not think Harkless' recommendations amounted to a victory for either side, saying, "I'm not unhappy or happy. I will be happy if Mr. Simons signs this thing exactly as is."
Other board members said during a brief board meeting that acceptance of the Harkless recommendations amounted to a recognition that in the give-and-take of collective bargaining on one wins everything it was proposing.
George Margolies, counsel for School Superintendent Vincent E. Reed, said the school board negotiators are ready to resume the contract talks immediately and several school officials said the contract shout easily be settled before the opening day of school Sept. 10.
In its brief statement yesterday, the board did not make any mention of the $343,350 in fines that D.C. Superior Court Judge Gladys Kessler levied against the union of 10 of its leaders to rignoring her back-to-work order during the strike.
Two school board members, Frank Shaffer-Corona and Barbara Lett Simmons, have suggested that the fines be rescinded.
But Woodson said that at least six of the 11 school board members have agreed informally to leave the fines issue up to the judge. "If she feels that the fines might keep them from striking in the future, then that's her prerogative," Woodson said.
Under the Harkless recommendations accepted by the board, teachers would not have to attend more than three parent-teacher meetings, lesson plans would not be used to evaluate teachers, and class size would be regulated by the contract, not set by the board.
But the board would have the right to select teachers to serve on committees to improve educational programs, teachers on the union's negotiating committee could only have 80 hours away from their classes for negotiations and teachers would be required to supervise school hallways between classes, keep attendance records and sign out when they leave school buildings.
Under the new city personnel law the school board will have the right to negotiate salaries starting Jan. 1.