A new school union representing administrators and supervisors is meeting and looking toward future contract negotiations after a contentious start.
Alex Jaffurs, supervisor of mathematics, spearheaded the movement along with other administrators who said they wanted separate representation from teachers at the bargaining table.
The St. Mary’s school board voted unanimously in May to divide the existing union to create a new union for supervisors, separate from nonsupervisory employees, which mainly includes teachers.
The Education Association of St. Mary’s County, the teachers union, in September voted to rescind the eligibility of the administrators and supervisors to be part of that union.
“We had to wait for that to happen before we could move forward,” Jaffurs said.
At that point the new union, known as the St. Mary’s Association of Supervisors and Administrators, officially named Jaffurs president and Evergreen Elementary School Principal Kim Summers vice president. Tracey Heibel, science supervisor, is secretary and Jeff Thompson, transportation director, is treasurer of the new union.
Four others were named as members of the board of directors: Leonardtown Elementary School Principal Denise Eichel, Chopticon High School Assistant Principal Stephen Williams, Joseph Longobardi, a transportation coordinator, and Rhonda Harris, supervisor of counselors.
Jaffurs said about 103 employees were determined to be eligible for the new union. Of those, 72 have joined, he said.
The remainder did not want to join, some because they couldn’t afford the dues, he said. All employees who are eligible will receive benefits negotiated in contracts.
“They wouldn’t have all the benefits of SMASA membership,” including extra legal representation beyond what the school board provides, Jaffurs said.
The dues to join the administrative union are approximately $500 per year; that is about $200 per year less than the cost to join the teachers union. The teachers union is more expensive in part because it pays a local teacher full time to work as president of the local union.
The administrative union currently functions without a paid representative.
Jaffurs said he hopes to stagger the group’s negotiations with the St. Mary’s County Board of Education so they do not happen at the same time the teachers union negotiates. He said that while he does not expect much in the way of raises, at least while money continues to be tight, he does hope to bargain for certain work conditions and eventually bring pay more in line with similar positions in the state.
The union will hold its first general meeting Nov. 8 at Evergreen Elementary School.
The new administrators union does function under the umbrella of the Maryland State Education Association, the same group EASMC works under. Jaffurs said he expects the group to continue under the MSEA umbrella, which has proven to be a better scenario than first envisioned by the group of administrators.
“We are the only bargaining agent here” for school employees, Anna Laughlin, president of EASMC, said of MSEA. “It made it a whole lot less complicated and I feel like it puts us all on the same team.”
She said the teachers union opposed how the administrators were trying to create the new union, not the new union itself. The local teachers union filed two complaints with the Maryland Public School Labor Relations Board, once against the school board and one against the local school superintendent.
“We thought if you were going to do this, you had to do it right,” Laughlin said. “Once the problem was solved, we had no problem moving forward with it ... We didn’t want to lose them, but we didn’t want to be in their way.”