Capital Article on the New Teachers’ Contract

Huang, Cindy, School board approves teacher contract, Capital, October 21, 2015

Snider Comment

“Jones said the agreement was approved by association members by a ratio between 3-to-1 and 2-to-1 earlier this month.”

Well, not quite. Tonight Jones clarified that the ratio was 3-to-1 and Board of Education President Stacy Korbelak confirmed in her prepared statement that it was 75%. By the way, with 5,800 teachers in the County, why couldn’t the Capital’s education reporter have asked at least one of them for the correct number? I mean, is it really unreasonable to ask a reporter to expend at least a tiny bit of shoe leather?

“The agreement [funds] a 2 percent raise for all teachers, said Bill Jones, the director of the association.”

Again, would it really be so terribly unreasonable to expect the reporter to actually read what was in the contract? Now mind you, I’m not expecting the reporter to analyze the contract, including doing any math, just read it. Even reading the AACPS press release on the agreement (it’s much, much shorter than the contract) would be a gigantic improvement, as it reported: “The agreement provides a 2 percent compensation increase for all TAAAC members, retroactive to July 1, 2015. It also reduces the work year for TAAAC members by one day.” Now it seems to me that the one day reduction in a regular teacher’s 191-day duty year is news that the public might be interested in. Is time money? Well, a reporter doesn’t have to answer such a controversial question, but he or she should definitely ask it–perhaps even noting the contract’s new per diem compensation requirements.

Oh, by the way, where was the contract summary that the AACPS PR Office promised to hand out to those who attended tonight’s meeting? Oops, deja vu, it was missing. God forbid the public should be able to see the contract; we’re just talking here about its summary.

The Response of the AACPS Public Information Officer, Bob Mosier, to Snider Comment

Mr. Snider, I emailed you a copy of the contract summary last evening at the conclusion of the meeting, just as I promised prior to the meeting that I would do and just as you were told at the meeting we would do. In addition, it is posted on the Board Docs section of the AACPS website and is linked to the agenda item. It is absolutely available for anyone who wishes to see it.

Bob Mosier
Chief Communications Officer
Anne Arundel County Public Schools

Snider Response to Mosier Comment

Dear Mr. Mosier:

As of the conclusion of last night’s Board of Education meeting, the agenda item, “Ratification of the Negotiated Agreement with the Board of Education and the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County,” which was posted the previous week under the requirements of Maryland’s Open Meetings Act, continued to make the claim: “Copies of the changes will be distributed at the Board meeting.” They were neither made available at the meeting nor online. I repeatedly asked the guard manning the door to the Board of Education meeting room why they weren’t available as promised. He referred me to a senior staffer who claimed he was in repeated contact with you during the meeting about this question. The staffer said you acknowledged the promised document was not available at the meeting but would be made available to me after the meeting. One reason I was so insistent is that I had called your office on Monday to get a copy of the contract that the Capital had reported on the previous Thursday, and you said I wouldn’t be able to see it prior to the vote but that I would have access to a written summary of it at the meeting.

The practice of your office has been to provide the public with the contract copies after both the school board has voted on the contract and Capital reported on it. That was again the practice yesterday. That is not good enough. It’s also an unacceptable but alas both routine and legal practice to amend official public documents without any public notice to that effect. That was done yet again when this morning, after my posted comment above, you posted an online link to the summary promised at the meeting last night. Maryland’s Public Information Act desperately needs a provision requiring time stamps when official documents are changed.

Capital Article on the Teachers’ Contract Prior to Its Ratification by the Board of Education

Huang, Cindy, County teachers protest proposed contract, Capital, October 15, 2017

(See also Huang, Cindy, Teachers continue protesting for higher wages, Capital, October 20, 2017)

Snider Comment on the Article’s Misleading Headline

How is it possible that the Capital knows the terms of the contract when the public hasn’t been allowed to see it? AACPS reported to the public in a September 22, 2015 press release: “Terms of the contract, which was tentatively agreed upon yesterday with the help of a mediator, are not being disclosed until both the Board and TAAAC membership ratify the agreement.” The Board of Education is set to ratify it next Wednesday; the 5,800 teachers have already ratified it.

And how is it possible that the one feature of the contract that actually is public–the reduction in the work year for FY2016 from 191 to 190 duty days–isn’t mentioned in the article? After all, almost everybody with kids in the County schools knows that TOMORROW, Oct. 16, 2015, the teachers have a day off from work as part of the as yet UNRATIFIED contract (how that works I have no idea, but that’s what we’re being told).

And shouldn’t the headline of this article be that teachers have ratified the contract? The real news is that a majority of the teachers ratified the contract, not that some opposed it. Yes, teachers at challenge schools will no longer receive an extra stipend above and beyond what other teachers get. But if that’s what this article is about it should have a different title.

Capital Editorial Using a Compensation Statistic

Our say: Balance of power for county schools shifting, Capital, October 25, 2015

See also Huang, Cindy, Schuh wants governor to reopen school board application process, Capital, October 22, 2015.

Snider Comment on the Need to Cite the Source of Such Statistics

In the future, I would encourage Capital editorial writers and, especially, reporters, to state where they got their statistics and provide at least a hint that they actually understand the statistical assumptions used to derive the reported data.  If that is too much to ask, given space constraints, at least provide a link to the government source of the data, assuming there is one.  Readers deserve to know where this data is coming from. Just because the data comes from a government source doesn’t mean it measures what it purports to measure or what readers reasonably assume it measures.  Part of the Capital’s job is to determine not only whether official verbal statements are misleading but also whether official statistics are misleading or at least could be misleading to an uninformed reader.  I recognize that many reporters and editors are statistically challenged, but that is still no excuse to report politically charged statistics whose critical assumptions aren’t understood.