ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Over a thousand teachers in Prince George's County Public Schools missed class on Monday, with some purposely calling out sick to protest problems in the school system.
According to a statement from schools CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell, 1,053 teachers were out in the district's 209 schools, but he said that's within the normal range for absences.
FOX 5 has learned some schools had higher absence rates than others. There were nearly 30 teachers out at Friendly High School, resulting in five classes being canceled, and students were brought to the gymnasium for supervision.
Last week, Dr. Maxwell sent a warning to all principals that they should be prepared for the possibility of a teacher "sick out" even though it is not supported by the Prince George's County Educators' Association.
"Although PGCEA has stated it does not support 'unprotected actions' such as 'organized sick out,' some employees are planning a "sick out" on Monday," his letter said. "You may want to prepare for higher than usual teacher absences."
Talk of the "sick out" was prompted by unauthorized raises given to four employees in the District's central office.
"It takes creating this type of tension to get any type of change, especially the type of change that we want to see in our community," said teacher Arun Puracken, who's running for the school board.
Some educators were furious after learning that several staff members in the district's Human Resources department got unauthorized pay raises -- raises given without the necessary approval from the school board. The possibility of additional unauthorized pay hikes are now under investigation.
"Just hearing about the secret raises, that's a real slap in the face to teachers," said teacher Samantha Bardoe.
"It really feels like our work is being undervalued and we are not being appreciated," she said.
While the teachers' union told members not to call out sick, the Prince George's County Educators' Association did vote on a "Work to Rule" Action for two weeks, which means teachers should not do anything beyond bare minimum duties.
The union urged teachers to attend the "Fix the Fund'" rally in Annapolis Monday evening. Hundreds of teachers from across the state gathered to demand more money for education. They say casino and gaming revenue that's supposed to go to schools should be used supplement funding, not replace it.
"They play a shell game," said teacher Michele Clarke. "They take away money that we used to get from the general fund and put in money from the casino."
A bill passed late Monday by Maryland Senate that would increase spending to public schools by $500 million if approved by voters. The bill now goes to the House.