Calvert County public school teachers and staff members will start the school year Tuesday without a contract, district officials said.
"There's obviously no hope at all that we can reach any resolution before school starts," Calvert Superintendent J. Kenneth Horsmon said last week.
The impasse -- the longest in Calvert County since 1979, Horsmon said -- was officially announced July 8 by State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick after months of stalled negotiations.
In a letter sent out in mid-August, Horsmon made public the Calvert County Board of Education's three-year offer to correct what he called a misrepresentation by the Calvert Education Association. He said the CEA publicized only part of the offer -- the first year's percent raise.
"I think it was unfair to take one year of a three-year package out of context," he said.
CEA President Shannon Fitch said his group went public after the school board petitioned to formally declare an impasse, which the CEA saw as an end to the confidentiality agreement signed by both parties.
"When we cannot talk to our 900 members, that creates problems," Fitch said.
Both parties are now moving forward with arbitration, Horsmon said. The CEA announced a new arbitrator last week: Marius Ambrose of the Howard County Education Association. The school system has its own arbitrator. The school board and the CEA now must choose an impartial third-party arbitrator from the American Association of Arbitrators within 10 days of the CEA's announcement.
The third arbitrator will bring the two advocates together to discuss a resolution. If a resolution is not achieved at that time, the third arbitrator will have 30 days to submit a report to the state Board of Education, which then will come forward with a final decision, Horsmon said.
The Calvert County school board has proposed a three-year salary package: for the first year, a 1 percent increase, and then for each of the following two years, a 1 percent increase and an additional percentage increase, based on the Consumer Price Index, that could range from 3 to 4 percent, Horsmon's letter said.
Fitch said that basing salary increases on the Consumer Price Index would run the risk of a salary increase as low as 7 percent over the next three years. The CEA has proposed a fixed 2.25 percent increase for the first year, and then 4.25 and 3.45 for the following two years.
"We have never negotiated using a Consumer Price Index," Fitch said. "We're not planning on doing that now."
He said raises for teachers and administrators should be equitable. Members of the Calvert Association of Supervisors and Administrators received a 3 percent raise plus step increases in fiscal 2004.
That raise is part of a three-year agreement brokered two years ago, Horsmon said.
The CEA is also asking the school board to allow teachers under disciplinary action to have a union representative. Currently, teachers under disciplinary action are not permitted a representative until the initial investigation has finished, Fitch said, whereas administrators are allowed a representative.
Fitch said the CEA has found strong support among county teachers.
"They feel that they're being disrespected in terms of what's being put on the board," he said.
The organization has asked the school board to pursue free federal mediation to resolve the impasse and has been turned down twice. For a county already struggling for money, the arbitration process will cost both parties thousands of dollars, Fitch said.
But Horsmon said the county has only so much money for salary increases without taking away from other school programs.
"Until somebody authorizes us to print some more money," he said, "we can only spend what we get."