Two employes of the Fairfax County school system are incorrectly identified in an article in today's Virginia Weekly. The employes are English teacher Gloria Johnson and school administrator R. Warren Eisenhower.
Gloria Johnson, a Fairfax County English teacher, says she knows the difference between collective bargaining and discussion sessions.
"I'm a former FEA (Fairfax Education Association) president and I worked under the old system of collective bargaining," said Johnson. "I know that what we were doing this fall was not collective bargaining."
Johnson, who headed a teachers' delegation to meetings last year with school officials, is defensive about the sessions county supervisors' Chairman John F. Herrity has called illegal.
Asked to explain the major difference between those meetings and formal negotiations, Johnson replied: "The agreements were not binding and the teachers had no power."
A 1977 decision by the Virginia Supreme Court held that collective bargaining by public employes was illegal. Last year, the general Assembly passed legislation requiring school administrators and teachers to engage in a structured method of communication.
The "communications procedure," as it is being called in Fairfax County, was approved by the school board in September. Under the guidelines, school officials can meet with representatives of the teachers' association to discuss anything affecting public school employes.
The purpose of the meetings, according to the regulations, is ultimately to "reach consensus." Any agreement between the two parties must be forwarded to the superintedent, who then is required to send it on to the school board.
Members of both delegations -- the school staff and the teachers -- say the "communications committee" in Fairfax County met over a period of five months in a small conference room in the school administration building in Fairfax City. Three school officials represented the administration and four Fairfax Education Association members served as emissaries for the teachers.
Initially scheduled once a week, the meetings became almost daily occurrences as the school budget deadline approached, and the talk turned from general working conditions to financial matters.
Committee members say they put themselves "under the gun" to reach agreement on salaries by early December to supply the superintendent with that information before he finalized the proposed school budget released earlier this month.
While the meetings were designed to be an ongoing process, participants say the discussions, which took place from August to December, were crucial -- and occasionally heated -- because of an emphasis on wages.
"Sometimes we had what I hate to call a stalemate," recalls Johnson. "Well, we ceased discussions on occasion because we were at odds and needed some cooling-off time."
The final meeting of 1979 was held on Dec. 12 and went almost around the clock.An agreement was reached in the early hours of Dec. 13 on a 10.4 percent cost-of-living raise for school employes.
R. Warren Eisenhower, director of Employe Compensation and Benefits, was the administration's chief represenative in the talks. Eisenhower said last week, ". . . there was never any attempt on the part of the school board to collectively bargain."
Eisenhower added that an opinion by state Attorney General Marshall A. Coleman, approving the method of communications, left no doubt in his mind that the discussions were proper.
The agreement is in memo form, addressed to assistant superintendent William J. Burkholder (formerly acting superintendent) and bearing the signatures of Eisenhower and Johnson.
The memorandum reads: "After many months of intense discussion . . . has achieved consensus . . . It is respectfully requested that the items . . . be included in your fiscal 1981 budget and be forwarded to the School Board for its consideration."
Herrity reacted to news of the agreement by publicly chastising the school board for entering into what he termed, "collective bargaining with a labor union." Herrity, however, was unable to find support among his fellow supervisors for a condemnation of the dschool board.
One school board member, Gary Jones, said last week he agreed with Herrity on at least one point. Jones recently distributed a letter to other members of the school board questioning the validity of the final agreement.
Several school board members, however, say they are unsympathetic to Jones, who was appointed to his at-large school board seat by Herrity.
In the meantime, the proposed pay raise has been reduced to 8.65 percent as the result of a countywide salary increase granted last week to all county employes, including teachers.