Baltimore Teachers Union fights for new contract at board meeting

By Amanda Cipriano
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer

Wearing bright yellow T-shirts, members of the Baltimore Teachers Union showed up in force Tuesday night and urged school officials to begin labor negotiations for a new contract.

The estimated 100 teachers who attended the meeting of the Baltimore Board of School Commissioners said they sacrifice a great deal for their students and believe the city should come to the negotiating table and work out a fair and equitable contract to replace the one that expired on June 30.

Mike Pesa, a teacher at Patterson High School in Baltimore, was one of about 100 teachers at this week's school board meeting who is asking for a new contract. Photo by Amanda Cipriano.

Mike Pesa, a teacher at Patterson High School in Baltimore, was one of about 100 teachers at this week’s school board meeting who is asking for a new contract. Photo by Amanda Cipriano.

“Most teachers steal from home to bring to the classroom,” said Sharon Ball, a 20-year veteran of the school system who is an engineering teacher at Patterson High School. “What more can they take from us?”

Marietta English, the president of the BTU, said teachers are frustrated because the board has recently said it will seek to cut about $10 million in total compensation. Ball said this proposal would limit teachers from greater benefits and salary raises.

Sonja Santelises, the school system’s chief executive officer, said the city is trying to balance the needs of teachers and students.

“Without reducing our costs across the board, we will not have the resources to provide our students, all of our students, with the full range of academic, physical and emotional supports they need to be successful,” Santelises said.

Santelises said the board is not looking to cut teacher salaries, adding that it wants to give opportunities for compensation to be raised. She said factors such as sustainability and overall district costs come into consideration when discussing contracts with the BTU.

“We are committed to invest in our teachers and in their professional development to ensure that they are best positioned to be successful and help our children thrive,” Santelises said.

English said the 2010 contract was “a landmark contract” that was hailed as a model for school districts and teachers’ unions.

English said there is no current negotiation between the board and the BTU to create a contract both parties can agree on.

“Teachers deserve to be treated as professionals,” English said. “I’m here with my team, teachers, [paraprofessionals, school-related personnel] and the community, and we’re demanding that the board send a team that will negotiate a fair, honest and equitable contract.”

Kimberly Mooney, a teacher at Roland Park Middle School, pleaded for negotiations to begin. Mooney said the BTU has been asking for negotiations since November 2015 but has not received an answer.

Mooney said she believes the board is operating in secret over the contract.

“We’re not against you, we’re not against the kids, we all have the same goals,” Mooney said. “We want to make our district as good as it can be, but if we don’t know what’s going on, it makes us very unsettled and we can’t do the best that we can do.”

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