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Anne Arundel County teachers rally ahead of return to classrooms

Posted at 5:30 PM, Feb 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-17 13:44:06-05

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — On Wednesday, teachers will go back to the classrooms in Anne Arundel County.

Tuesday night many of them were in their cars rallying around school headquarters as the district held a meeting about the budget.

This year has proven to be one of the hardest ever for teachers.

While the district considers a budget, teachers want better salaries for that hard work.

At the same time, they have a lot of questions about going back into classrooms.

Russell Leone, the Teachers Association President of Anne Arundel County, said they came out Tuesday night for two reasons.

A safe return for teachers and an increase in salary.

“We’ve had a decade of time where we had pay freezes as well as when people came into our county hired from other places they would be reduced in terms of their years of experience matching the salary step they were put on,” said Leone. “While we’ve made some progress before COVID, we’re here to remind them that those issues been fixed completely and we’re hoping they will continue to address those.”

Bob Mosier, a spokesperson for the district, released this statement in response to the rally saying:

“It is most unfortunate that Mr. Leone has chosen to engage in the politics of deception when discussing the lengths to which our school system has gone to prepare for hybrid learning. Our system’s reopening plans have, in fact, aligned with county, state, and federal guidance. Our students are wearing masks except, as allowed by law, where their disabilities prevent it. We have, in fact, developed a Safety Guide into which TAAAC provided input before flip-flopping at the 11th hour and expressing philosophical differences with the document. Mr. Leone’s insincere posturing is in no way indicative of the commitment of the thousands of our teachers who go the extra mile for students every single day. Many of those teachers will be back in classrooms tomorrow.”

Samantha Schirckel is a first year pre-K teacher who wants to see consistent and enforceable protocols across all schools.

“It is unsafe to reopen our schools, we don’t have a firm plan,” Schirckel said. “There is a lot of unanswered questions and we don’t know where to turn to for these answers.”

Some teachers who have health concerns like Betsy Brininger applied and were granted permission to continue teaching from home.

“There’s also a lot of questions for me even about how to react to two different groups,” Brininger said. “One groups at home, one groups not at home. Are we using computers and paper and pencils in one place. There’s tons of questions about how we fall forward.”

While the teachers do head back Wednesday, students won’t be back in classrooms until March to give teachers a chance to adjust to the new environment.

Leone responded back on Wednesday to Mosier’s claims about the Anne Arundel County teachers rally ahead of their return to classrooms, saying:

There was a statement issued by the Anne Arundel County Public Schools spokesperson Bob Mosier in response to our car rally and call for safe classrooms and equitable pay. In his statement, Mr. Mosier called me a liar, claiming that I am involved in the “politics of deception.”
Mr. Mosier is just wrong on the facts. First, he has not been involved with our bargaining with Anne Arundel County. Second, his response is consistent with how AACPS responds when the teachers and central office disagree: offensive, antagonistic, and incompatible with the respect he claims we deserve.
Our differences with the County were not philosophical, as Mr. Mosier claimed, but were legal. For a “Safety Guide,” the County produced a loose set of guidelines, providing, for example, no certification of air quality and no guarantee of the quality of personal protective equipment. They asked us to sign off on the document that would allow for disciplining of teachers for failure to adhere to the guidelines, while it failed to address other key questions.
Maybe besides mischaracterizing the discussions, Mr. Mosier could point us to the school system’s plans for safely covering lunches, ensuring that face masks fit, pledging that PPE will be of the quality and quantity necessary to moderate spread. What assurances can he or AACPS provide re ventilation beyond broad non-verifiable statements?
It was TAAAC who agreed to continue to meet while the Superintendent claimed no obligation to bargain. We offered to put aside the question of signature on a document so we could continue exchanges while AACPS continued to make changes to working conditions without bargaining (as the law allows).
Yes, we refused to sign off on the list of guidelines because we believe this environment requires more serious and clear written directives beyond a broad list of recommendations and best practices that AACPS wants us to accept as sufficient.
So — we reject the antagonistic and error-filled statements coming from AACPS and invite them, again, as we have for almost a year, to engage in the hard work of developing a written agreement worthy and protective of the health of our students and staff.