School board ap­proves $344.2 mil­lion bud­get

Signs con­tracts with unions, hears from pub­lic about trans­gen­der pol­icy, buses

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com

The Charles County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion capped off a marathon seven-and-a-half hour meet­ing with fi­nal ap­proval of the $344.2 mil­lion fis­cal year 2017 bud­get.

The ap­proved bud­get is 3 per­cent more than last year’s bud­get, but $7.8 mil­lion less than school sys­tem Su­per­in­ten­dent Kim­berly Hill had ini­tially asked of Charles County gov­ern­ment, the dif­fer­ence be­ing de­ducted pri­mar­ily from funds set aside for

ne­go­ti­a­tions with the county teach­ers’ union.

When she first pro­posed her bud­get, Hill said the money might be used to make up two salary step in­creases which teach­ers did not re­ceive in fis­cal years 2011 and 2015.

Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion of Charles County Pres­i­dent Linda McLaugh­lin said she was dis­ap­pointed Charles County teach­ers would go without the step in­creases for an­other year, but re­mained hope­ful they would be made up in fu­ture years.

“Though ed­u­ca­tors are still two steps be­hind, we ap­pre­ci­ate the work that was put in with salaries as a top pri­or­ity,” McLaugh­lin said. “Though ne­go­ti­a­tions for this year have come to a close, our work is not done and will not be done un­til all our ed­u­ca­tors are on the cor­rect step and be­ing com­pen­sated for the awe­some job done every sin­gle day.”

Ear­lier in the meet­ing, ne­go­ti­at­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the school sys­tem, the EACC, the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of State, County and Mu­nic­i­pal Em­ploy­ees (AFSCME), the union for ad­min­is­tra­tors and sup­port per­son­nel signed new con­tracts with the school sys­tem af­ter the board voted to ap­prove the ne­go­ti­ated agree­ments.

The school board also ap­proved a 2.8 per­cent in­crease for in-state and out-of-state tu­ition for non-Charles County res­i­dents — in­creas­ing it to an an­nual rate of $7,655 and $11,980, re­spec­tively — with ad­di­tional charges for spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion ser­vices.

Randy So­tomayor, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of fi­nance and busi­ness, said the in­crease is in line with the pre­vi­ous year’s in­crease of ap­prox­i­mately 3 per­cent.

The school sys­tem also rec­og­nized par­tic­i­pants in this year’s “Read Across Charles County” event. The Charles County Chap­ter of NAACP sent male African-Amer­i­can vol­un­teers to read in each ele­men­tary school in the county.

“It’s im­por­tant for stu­dents to see more African-Amer­i­can men in our schools,” NAACP chap­ter pres­i­dent Janice Wil­son said.

Thirty-three speak­ers ad­dressed the board dur­ing its pub­lic fo­rum later in the evening, which was at­tended by more than 120 peo­ple. The ma­jor­ity of those who spoke did so re­gard­ing the school sys­tem al­low­ing trans­gen­der stu­dents to use the bath­room fa­cil­i­ties which match their gen­der iden­tity on a case-by-case ba­sis, in line with guid­ance re­ceived from the U.S. Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion last month.

Nine­teen par­ents and pas­tors and one stu­dent spoke out against al­low­ing trans­gen­der stu­dents to use the fa­cil­i­ties which match their gen­der iden­tity.

Ni­cholas Shut­ters, a ris­ing junior at La Plata High School, said it was not fair for him to have to use the sin­gle-use bath­room in an­other part of the school to avoid shar­ing fa­cil­i­ties with a trans­gen­der stu­dent.

“That’s dis­crim­i­na­tion against me. Be­ing trans­gen­der is not a con­di­tion, it’s a choice,” Shut­ters said. “If you’re born with a male part, you use the male bath­room; if you’re born with a fe­male part, you use the fe­male bath­room.”

Heather McNaughton, par­ent of two stu­dents at­tend­ing Dr. James Craik Ele­men­tary, said the is­sue of trans­gen­der fa­cil­ity us­age is a very sen­si­tive and very dif­fi­cult sub­ject.

“I do not know what the an­swer is. I un­der­stand the … con­cern of hav­ing trans­gen­der in­di­vid­u­als in bath­rooms,” McNaughton said. “But I will say that if we truly want to raise global, car­ing, lov­ing, com­pas­sion­ate chil­dren, to cre­ate a new fu­ture, we need to teach our chil­dren love, ac­cep­tance, in­clu­sion and un­der­stand­ing.”

Fol­low­ing the pub­lic com­ments, school board mem­ber Vic­to­ria Kelly re­quested that the is­sue of trans­gen­der bath­room us­age be placed on a fu­ture agenda. The school board’s next meet­ing will be in Au­gust.

Eleven other in­di­vid­u­als spoke in re­gards to the school sys­tem’s use of con­tract com­pa­nies to pro­vide school bus ser­vices. The ma­jor­ity of those speak­ing were con­tract com­pany own­ers and bus driv­ers in fa­vor of keep­ing the cur­rent sys­tem.

Calvin Comp­ton, owner of Comp­ton Bus Ser­vices, said that union or­ga­niz­ers are try­ing to de­stroy the con­tract bus sys­tem in South­ern Mary­land.

“We have many won­der­ful em­ploy­ees who are greatly val­ued, but it re­ally makes me mad that there are a few dis­grun­tled em­ploy­ees who are mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for the rest of us,” Comp­ton said. “Many of my em­ploy­ees have asked me to do some­thing to stop the so-called union or­ga­niz­ers from both­er­ing them.”

Keith McGirt, a Charles County bus driver, urged the school sys­tem to hire driv­ers di­rectly.

“We’re ask­ing for fair­ness across the board,” McGirt said. “The re­al­ity is, our driv­ers are suf­fer­ing. They’re suf­fer­ing, and they need an even play­ing ground.”

Charles County bus driver Mary Stetler said she did not see any rea­son to change a sys­tem that works.

“You are be­ing asked to elim­i­nate 26 county busi­nesses,” Stetler said. “Please leave our con­trac­tors in place. Please do not ac­cept the word of any­one that says they speak for all county bus driv­ers, be­cause no one can ever speak for all driv­ers, and no one has ever asked to speak for me.”

STAFF PHOTO BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

The Charles County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion board­room was filled to ca­pac­ity Tues­day evening dur­ing the pub­lic com­ment por­tion of the meet­ing. Thirty-three in­di­vid­u­als spoke, most re­gard­ing trans­gen­der stu­dent bath­room us­age and bus trans­porta­tion.

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