ANNAPOLIS -- Maryland's highest court said Monday that the state Board of Education has the final word in a dispute initiated by the Montgomery County teachers association over the school calendar and how job reclassification affects salaries.

In a unanimous decision, the state's Court of Appeals upheld a Court of Special Appeals ruling. The lower court had sided with the state Board of Education in a 1983 dispute over whether the Montgomery County Education Association could negotiate the two issues for teachers.

The high court said state law leaves such educational policy issues up to the state Board of Education, not the courts.

"It is true that, under our cases, a reviewing court should not always defer entirely to the state board's interpretation of a statute," the appeals court said.

But the panel cited a decision in an earlier case stating, "the paramount role of the State Board of Education in interpreting the public education law sets it apart from most administrative agencies."

In 1983, the Montgomery County Education Association sought to negotiate the school calender and the impact of job reclassification on salaries with the county Board of Education, which referred the case to the state Board of Education.

A state hearing examiner said a 1970 county policy made the school calendar the county board's prerogative. The examiner also ruled that negotiating salaries affected by job reclassification would lead to disruptive, continuing discussions between with the county and three teachers unions.

The examiner recommended revisions to the 1970 policy, allowing the county board to negotiate under an "across-the-board" provision that would protect employes whose salaries has been reduced by reclassification.

But the state's high court said there was sufficient evidence indicating that negotiations involving the effect of job reclassification on salaries "would have a serious adverse impact on the county board's ability to operate its school system."