Teachers Wear Red, Protest for Student Rights, Fair Pay

Natalie Varela

Anjali DasSarma, 2015-2017 Editor-in-Chief

Teachers at Wilde Lake participated in the national union walk in at 7 AM on October 6, holding signs with slogans stating “less testing more learning” and “smaller class sizes.” These teachers are a part of the 90 percent of Howard County teachers who are members of the Howard County Educators Association, or HCEA.

The HCEA deals with many issues, including a recent issue that occurred this past August, which caused a confusion in the pay schedule for teachers. This resulted in a county-wide protest, with teachers wearing red for a week.

What we do is [make sure the] Board of Education candidates are pro-education and pro-student”

— Member of the HCEA Board of Directors, Ms. Chavarria

“For 10-month employees, most teachers, many of us opt to get paid over 12 months, to have our pay spread out, and we count on the payroll office to make sure we’re paid evenly. By putting in the wrong start date, that meant that there was a week missing, so they had essentially paid us too much earlier. But when it got down to August and they realized what they’d done, they realized our paychecks were going to be short. And not short a little bit, short a lot,” said Ms. Midgley, union representative for Wilde Lake.

Following the issue in payroll, in which a “series of bad decisions” were made, according to President Paul Lemle, the union worked with the Board of Education in order to make changes. “We asked the Board to provide hardship letters for creditors and 5-day advances for people who needed them to make their mortgages and child care payments. We also asked them to provide assurances, so that this won’t happen again,” said President Lemle.

President Lemle, who has been the president of HCEA since July of 2011, says that the issues the union deals with are widespread. “Compensation, benefits, and working conditions for educators,” are just a few of the issues the union is responsible for upholding.

“Compensation, benefits, and working conditions for educators,” are just a few of the issues the union is responsible for upholding.”

— President of HCEA, Paul Lemle

Ms. Chavarria, who was previously a union representative from Wilde Lake, was elected to the board of directors of the HCEA.

“This year is the first year that I’m not the official union representative anymore because I was elected to the HCEA Board of Directors. If there’s some sort of grievance, when there’s some sort of issue in our building, I’m basically here to support the staff members and make sure that they are treated fairly. If there are any issues we might need to pursue further, [we want to get those] taken care of,” said Ms. Chavarria.

Being on the Board of Directors, Ms. Chavarria is well aware of the rocky relationship between the teachers union’s relationship and the Board of Education.

“The goal of the union is to have a very pleasant and productive working relationship with the Howard County Board of Education. Unfortunately, over the past few years, it hasn’t been the greatest relationship. “What we do is [make sure the] Board of Education candidates are pro-education and pro-student,” said Ms. Chavarria.

The union also works to make sure each student has the same right to an education. “Something that is important is that we’re including issues of social and racial justice for education, as well as contract negotiation and salary,” said Ms. Chavarria.

According to Ms. Chavarria, the HCEA’s main goal is to create a safe and healthy learning environment for all students. “We fight for policies and practices that we know are best for our students and that will make sure that students receive the best education possible and that teachers have the best working environment, teachers and educators,” said Ms. Chavarria.