The Frederick County Board of Education declared an impasse in negotiations with the county teachers union Tuesday, hours before its contract was set to expire.
Negotiations between the board and the Frederick County Teachers Association started in January and have been stalled for some time, said FCTA president Missy Dirks. Among the sticking points are issues of teacher workload and planning time, she said.
Last week, the parties held three-on-three negotiating sessions, where members from each side met directly for the first time in the bargaining process. On Tuesday, the school board met in closed session, and Dirks said she’d hoped they’d have a settlement by the end of the evening.
Late in the afternoon, though, she received word that impasse proceedings were beginning instead. The FCTA's current negotiated agreement with the board expires on June 30.
“This development is deeply disappointing to us,” Dirks said. “Our members deserve to have a fair contract that addresses long-standing issues and recognizes all the hard work and dedication that teachers have given to the system.”
The board, meanwhile, maintained that its contract offer “reflects the value and appreciation this Board has for the work of educators.”
“The Board feels that it has presented a generous and highly competitive offer in negotiations and has made significant concessions throughout the negotiations process,” the board said in a statement.
Board president Jay Mason could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday evening.
Teachers working at summer programs across the county won’t be affected by the impasse, Dirks said. The vast majority of the roughly 3,000 employees in her bargaining unit work under 10-month contracts that don’t take effect until August.
Those who are taking on summer school duties did so on a volunteer basis, Dirks said, and that work isn’t covered by the FCTA’s contract with the board. Also unaffected are administrators and school support employees, who bargain in separate units.
The next step in the process will be a meeting with the FCTA, the board and a third-party mediator, who can aid the parties in coming to an agreement but has no power in ending the stalemate. If that fails, the next step is arbitration, where both groups cede their authority to an arbitrator who will make the final decision on the dispute.
Maryland law forbids teachers from striking.
“We remain hopeful that we will all move forward in the best interests of our students, the FCPS community, and rewarding the great work of our educators,” the Board of Education’s statement said.
Formal impasse proceedings haven’t taken place in Dirks’ six-year tenure as FCTA president, she said.
Though Dirks couldn't disclose details of the negotiation, she said her unit’s main concerns revolved around teachers seeing a workload increase in the aftermath of the pandemic.
“This coming year will be even more important than ever, because we will have such a wide range — we had students that excelled in the virtual and hybrid model and students who struggled,” Dirks said. “There's going to be a lot of unmet needs that teachers will have to plan for.”