It's a time-honored tradition in counties and cities across the country that municipal union contract negotiations are conducted in closed sessions between union officials and local leaders.
But on Thursday night, Howard County Education Association's president Paul Lemle did something unusual. He presented a memo that proposed the Howard County Board of Education hold negotiations with HCEA in open meetings, according to a Howard County Times report.
“We see a strong benefit to an open process,” Lemle said, according to the report. “Everyone can see how bargaining works for the benefit of public schools and the public school employees. Great public schools are not built just with bricks, but with a good contract and good relationships between the school system and its employees.”
The Board voted unanimously on Oct. 26 to conduct collective bargaining in open session for Fiscal Year 2015, according to schools spokesperson Rebecca Amani-Dove. This would include negotiations with the HCEA as well as other bargaining units for school employees including the Educational Support Professionals (ESP), the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Howard County Administrators Association (HCAA).
“Fostering a culture of collaboration, trust, and shared responsibility is a guiding principle of the school system,” stated Board Chairman Frank Aquino. “Holding open sessions will enhance the collaborative and professional collective bargaining environment and go a long way toward transparency with the broader community.”
The Board does still have the authority to decide whether to open or close negotiation sessions under Maryland law.