Brian Reinhardt, a teacher at Patterson Mill High School, made the following public comments to the members of the Harford County Board of Education during a February 13 Board business meeting:
I’ve had the benefit of working at many high schools around the county, interacting with many central office personnel, and networking with colleagues at all levels in Harford County Public Schools. I like to be involved, whether with union work, county committees, or summer curriculum projects. I attest that almost all school system employees are hard-working, responsible professionals who work at least a job and a half to serve the students and parents of this community. We go above-and-beyond what’s expected. Your salaried employees don’t punch a clock.
Although this Board and previous Boards have and continue to try to serve this community, this Board and previous Boards have unsuccessfully addressed the needs of their employees. Sadly, negotiation tactics in this system are hostile.
Here are some lowlights of negotiations over the last few years.
1. A previous Board changed health care plans without negotiating. School system employees picketed this building in protest. That Board only reinstituted the PPO Plan right before the Board was taken to court. It took the impending threat of litigation to force that Board to do what was right – negotiate health care.
2. This Board, until recently, refused to negotiate the bonus offered by the County Executive. Thankfully you changed your minds.
3. Employees’ salaries have been stagnant for years. This past year, negotiations went to impasse because the County Executive wouldn’t fully fund the school board’s budget AND, therefore, the Board cried “no money.” Then, the Board reported a multi-million dollar surplus and was found guilty of ‘bad faith bargaining’ by the State’s Labor Relations Board. This Labor Board instructed the teachers’ union and this Board of Ed. to renegotiate last year’s contract. From what I understand, this Board refuses and is going to wait until legal action (more litigation) forces it to resolve last year’s impasse.
When I’m on-the-job working with my seniors at Patterson Mill, I always ask, “How should I act and perform while in this building to set a positive example for my students?” I’m not perfect, I’m not always successful, but I try to be. How would education in this system change if every teacher in this county acted like the Board of Education does during negotiations?
• We would be hostile.
• We would not cooperate.
• We would only do what is expected when threatened.
• We would postpone, put off, and forestall all forward movement.
If school system employees followed that work ethic, this school system would crumble. And, what example would that set for our students?
My students and I just finished reading The Kite Runner. The protagonist is told in his adulthood that “there is a way to be good again.” You see, the protagonist left his best friend in a time of need, horrible events resulted, and the protagonist felt guilty for decades. However, he did find a way “to be good again” by risking his life to save his best friend’s son. Your employees are in a time of need. We can’t be left behind, again. There is too much riding on our collective success or failure. However, no one is asking you to risk your lives. There is a way for this Board “to be good again,” and that way is simple – properly negotiate last year’s contract and properly negotiate this year’s contract.
Patterson Mill High School