Prince George's County school superintendent Edward J. Feeney closed Suitland High School yesterday, turning away over 2,000 students, after 71 of the school's 99 teachers called in sick.
School spokesman Brian Porter called the incident "an organized work stoppage," following a breakdown in the two-month-old contract talks between the county school board and the Prince George's County Educators Association.
"Let me put it this way -- 71 teachers calling in sick was not an accident," said Porter.
Union president John Sisson denied any prior knowledge of the action by the union, and said he didn't condone it.
Feeney also called a meeting with all school principals and other administrative personnel yesterday to plan strategy for dealing with potential teacher actions in the course of contract talks that, according to Sisson, are stalled.
"The potential for organized effort is certainly more real today than yesterday," said Porter. "They shut down one of our largest high schools today very successfully."
On Monday the teachers' 200-member faculty representative council rejected the school board offer of a 5 percent increase next August, a 3.3 percent increase in February 1982 and an additional 1.1 percent the following April, a cumulative raise of 9.1 percent. Sisson said that the offer adds up to an annual increase of 6.8 percent, far below the 20 percent that his negotiations are presently asking.
Porter called the raise "the best we can do," given the insistence of County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan to hold the overall increase in next year's school budget to 3 percent.
School superintendent Feeney called the sickout, "disruptive for the students and damaging for their educations."
Feeney will ask all Suitland teachers who called in sick or did not report to work yesterday for a written certificate of medical illness from a doctor. Teachers who cannot prove their illness will be docked one day's pay, according to Porter.