Frederick County’s Board of Education and the union that represents teachers at the county’s public schools reached a tentative three-year agreement Monday, more than a month since employees returned to work without a contract.
Under the agreement, 3,400 employees will jump a step on the current school system pay scale and receive an accompanying 1.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment, according to an FCPS release. These employees will also receive retroactive pay — including the pay step and the cost-of-living adjustment — for the time they worked since the last contract between the board and the union expired in July.
Since July, certificated FCPS employees — including teachers — have been working without a negotiated contract and without receiving the usual pay raises and the cost-of-living adjustments they were due, according to previous reporting from The News-Post.
The tentative agreement also stipulates that teachers hired on or before Feb. 1, 2021, will receive a $1,400 retention incentive in their Dec. 15 paychecks. And, it increases the number of paid work days for special education teachers, speech language pathologists and employees in leadership roles, such as department chairs. As a result, these employees will receive pay for more of the hours they need to work to meet federally-required mandates.
“This is a fair contract for now,” Missy Dirks, president of the Frederick County Teachers Association, said in an interview with the News-Post.
The contract doesn’t provide all that the union had hoped for, Dirks said in the FCPS release. But, it makes progress toward retaining school system staff and incentivizing prospective hires during a period of nationwide staffing shortages for school systems, she said.
“I’m glad that it’s finally come to a resolution and we can move forward,” Board of Education President Jay Mason said in an interview with the the News-Post.
The tentative agreement comes after 10 days of mediation and represents a major milestone in the contract negotiations between FCPS and the union, which began in January.
It also marks a step toward ending a two-month impasse that began when the parties were unable to reach a consensus before the existing contract expired June 30. More than a month later, the state Public Schools Labor Relations board affirmed the impasse — a necessary step in the process — though contract mediation didn’t start until September.
Both the school board and the 3,000-member union will need to ratify the agreement before it takes effect. The agreement is tentatively scheduled to come before the board Sept. 22, so the union will need to vote on it before then.
If one party doesn’t ratify the agreement, both will return to the bargaining table, Dirks said.