District Dossier

Goodbye to All That

Union votes against departing Md. leader.

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The teachers’ union in Anne Arundel County, Md., took a vote of no confidence last week against Superintendent Eric J. Smith—two months after the schools chief announced his resignation from the 75,000-student district.

Sparring with Mr. Smith is nothing new for the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, but the union’s decision to hold a referendum to express its dissatisfaction with him in his final days struck some as overkill.

“We’re very disappointed that the teachers’ union finds it necessary to have to slam the door on this guy’s backside even as he walks out,” said Bob Burdon, the president of the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Smith has stirred considerable debate in the district since his arrival in 2002. He put all secondary schools on new daily schedules, adopted a highly scripted reading program countywide, and created pacing guides for teachers that show, day by day, what students need to learn. ("Agent of Change," July 9, 2003.)

Although test scores have gone up, union leaders say Mr. Smith’s initiatives have increased teachers’ workloads, while their pay is lower than in most nearby systems. They also protested when, last year, he proposed a change in health-care providers for teachers without negotiating it. The plan was dropped.

“The overarching concern is there has been little respect or consideration for employees,” said Sheila Finlayson, the president of the National Education Association affiliate.

Mr. Smith announced his decision to quit in early September, citing what he saw as a growing rift with the school board. His last day is slated for Nov. 23, seven months before his contract was to expire.

Last week’s vote took place among about 100 of the union’s building representatives, all but four of whom agreed they lacked confidence in Mr. Smith’s leadership.

Mr. Smith called the no-confidence vote “unfortunate.”

“We’ve gone through some tough times, teachers and all of us,” he said, “and we feel like we’re getting someplace together.”

Vol. 25, Issue 11, Page 3

Published in Print: November 9, 2005, as Goodbye to All That

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