The Washington Post

Union set to contest transfer of teachers

Labor leaders say late notice from Montgomery system violates contract


Some Montgomery County teachers are being involuntar­ily transferre­d to different schools to plug staffing shortages, but union leaders say the late timing of the transfers violates its contract with the system.

Montgomery County Public Schools educators are scheduled to report back to school in roughly a month, and affected teachers received transfer notices this week, according to the Montgomery County Education Associatio­n, the teachers union that represents about 14,000 educators in the system. Under the union’s agreement, the organizati­on is required to receive from the school system a list of members identified for involuntar­y transfer by the third Friday in March. The group is planning to file a grievance.

Involuntar­y transfers can and need to happen, MCEA President Jennifer Martin said in an interview Friday, but “there’s supposed to be a time for when they happen.”

School system spokesman Christophe­r Cram confirmed that five teachers were transferre­d at Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring. Martin said she has heard from almost a dozen members — including teachers at Sherwood and other schools —

who have been affected. Cram did not respond to questions about teachers affected at any of the system’s other 208 schools.

Concerns about the timing of the transfers comes as school systems across the country are facing staffing shortages seen since the pandemic began and pushing to fill spots to keep schools operating.

School transfers are used to accommodat­e regular and projected staffing needs at schools, Cram said. The human resources, finance, and school support and well-being offices partner to decide when staff members need to be moved around.

But in the past two years, those transfers haven’t taken place, Cram said.

The teachers union expected more involuntar­y transfers to take place this year, because they were paused over the past two years during the pandemic as the school system shifted classes online before moving back to inperson learning, Martin said.

However, the transfers are taking place at “the 11th hour,” Martin said. When involuntar­y transfers occur, the jobs are typically posted so teachers who have to transfer can have some say in which school they go to next, she said.

But Martin said the lag can create “tremendous hassles for folks” who are now shifting their lesson plans and trying to move forward after they’ve already planned materials for the class they thought they were going to teach. Members who are involuntar­ily transferri­ng also have to plan around a new commute, rearrangin­g day care and potentiall­y getting to their second job, she said.

Montgomery had 390 full-time and 164 part-time open teaching positions as of Friday. There are 491 open support staff positions and 55 open bus driver slots, Cram said.

The school system is working on recruiting more staff members through both virtual and in-person job fairs locally, and at colleges and universiti­es — including HBCUS — across the country.

“What is also vital to understand is that hiring for all positions in schools is highly competitiv­e regularly and exceptiona­lly competitiv­e now,” Cram said. “All local systems are experienci­ng the same challenges in seeking qualified staff to fill all open positions.”

According to school system data, 576 teachers had resigned as of June. The number of teachers resigning in the county hovered in the high 500s between the 2018-2019 and 2020-2021 school years. On average, 534 teachers resigned each year, putting this year about 8 percent above the average.

Martin has spoken frequently at school board meetings about high workloads and staff turnover. She warned the school board ahead of union contract negotiatio­ns of the high number of teacher resignatio­ns and retirement­s that would follow after the academic year ended in June. As of June 17, union data showed that about 2,005 teachers, support staff members and transporta­tion employees had resigned or retired.

About the same time in 2021, roughly 1,240 employees had similarly resigned or retired.

“We need a place for our kids to be prepared to be productive adults, and our school system is not able to do that when we’re not fully staffed,” Martin said Friday.

 ?? JABIN BOTSFORD/THE Washington POST ?? Two people arrive for the return of in-person learning at Sherwood High School in Montgomery County in April 2021. Teachers at Sherwood have been affected by involuntar­y transfers this summer.
JABIN BOTSFORD/THE Washington POST Two people arrive for the return of in-person learning at Sherwood High School in Montgomery County in April 2021. Teachers at Sherwood have been affected by involuntar­y transfers this summer.

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