Back on December 20th the Howard County Education Association (HCEA) sent the following letter to the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS):
Dear Dr. Martirano,
Pursuant to Article 3 of the HCEA/HCPSS Master Agreement, please find enclosed Grievance #3-2019/2020, signed by 73 certificated staff across 33 schools filing as a class on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated individuals in the Howard County Public School System. This grievance is the largest class action ever filed by our union. We do not take this action lightly, and we do it to raise the alarm about the crisis we face in our school system. I represent the Grievants and the Association in this matter pursuant to Article 3.
The Grievants, who are mostly special educators, have missed their contractually required planning and lunch due to the extreme and emergent daily demands at their schools. In addition to planning and delivering instruction with fidelity, our special educators are routinely called to respond to student crises, attend and lead IEP meetings, and execute their many other school responsibilities. Other signatories to this grievance are general educators or related service providers who also serve our special education students, and who are experiencing the downstream impacts of the school system’s crisis in special education.
The facts in this case are indisputable. Educators across our school system do not receive their required planning and lunch time several days per week, the impact of which is consequently felt by the most vulnerable children in our school system. Lack of planning impacts educators’ ability to develop and deliver the high-quality lessons our students deserve. Making matters worse, responding to constant student behavior crises disrupts the learning environment for all students, and simultaneously the ability of our educators to develop engaging lessons.
We want to be clear that this crisis extends beyond school administrators, and that we believe they are doing everything in their power to support our staff and students. But even they cannot be in two places at once, and they cannot keep up with the extreme demands faced by our school system.
We also believe that this is one piece of a much larger problem of inadequate staffing and inadequate funding facing the school system. One such issue is that the staffing allocation for special education is simply broken, and it does not account for either the acuity or the diversity of student needs in a least restrictive environment. We are also aware that funds from the county government are insufficient to meet the needs of our school system, and especially the resources needed to effectively deliver special education instruction and support.
Our educators deserve you, Dr. Martirano, to hear this grievance, and it is required under Article 3.C(5):
5. If a grievance affects a group or class of teachers, involving two or more teachers, the Association may submit such grievance in writing to the Superintendent directly, and the processing of such grievance shall be commenced at Step Two (2).
We hope that you will give this urgent problem the attention it deserves before it becomes worse. The extreme stress caused by this problem is taxing our staff both emotionally and physically, and many are prepared to resign at the end of this school year. We urge you in the strongest possible terms to demonstrate your commitment to our educators.
Please contact me to establish a mutually agreeable location and time to accommodate all 73 grievants and other similarly impacted individuals. I can be reached at the office of the Howard County Education Association, (410) 997-3440.
Joshua Guy Lenes
MSEA/MCEA UniSery Director
You can see images of the letter on this Facebook post from HCEA Howard County Education Association along with the following text:
Just before winter break, over 70 educators in Howard County joined together to file a class action grievance related to dozens of hours of missed planning and lunch periods. It’s the largest class action grievance ever filed by our union.
Now were calling on community members and allies to stand with us. Send a letter to our elected leaders and share with your neighbors and friends: https://actionnetwork.org/…/howard-county-leaders-urgent-a…/
Stay tuned…as I get more information on this grievance I will be sure to follow up with new posts.