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Teachers, staff look at deal

(June 12, 2015) While details of a pay proposal put before teachers and support staff union officials as well as the board of education won’t be released for possibly another week, the consensus seems to be that progress that has been made in the past few days.

“We’re getting close to an agreement,” Barb Witherow, spokeswoman for the schools, said this week. “Dr. Wilson has indicated he is looking at eliminating positions in his proposals.”

Beth Shockley-Lynch of the Worcester County Teacher’s Association, agreed.

“The board has been very supportive of our position and felt we were worth the decisions being made. It will come with sacrifices of people and programs, but that’s what we are, people and programs,” she said.

The proposal was developed late last week but at this juncture remained to be ratified by all the parties involved.

“We met Friday and made an agreement, but we have to get the logistics of it,” Ivory Smith, president of the Worcester County Education Support Personnel Association, said.

A source close to the negotiations said both sides requested some clarifications on certain points of the deal and the school board needed more time to contact its members.

The proposal is not expected to be presented to the county commissioners, which it would have to be if funds were reallocated from one area to another.

“The teachers are not being made whole. The board has offered a very generous compromise,” Shockley-Lynch said.

Funding for step increases to teachers and county employees, yearly increases in base salary based on performance and experience, was trimmed from the county’s budget on in favor of reducing an increase in property tax rates and replenishing the budget stabilization fund.

Steps were previously skipped in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Neighboring Wicomico and Somerset counties had also skipped steps in previous years, but have since made up the difference. Worcester, dependent on a different funding model than those counties, has not.

“The real concern was the investment in teachers. If we’ve invested five years in training a teacher and they leave, that training is benefitting someone else,” Shockley-Lynch said.

A number of teachers had indicated they were looking for work outside of Worcester as a means to restore lost steps.

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