Faced with a dwindling supply of minority teachers and administrators, county school board members are reviewing a plan to offer extensive training and education to minorities in exchange for a commitment to teach in the county after college graduation.
During a day-long school board meeting yesterday, board members discussed the feasibility of Project MINT, designed as a collaborative effort between county schools, Anne Arundel Community College and Bowie State University.
N. Jerome Edwards, special assistant in the school system's department of instruction, joined AACC president Thomas Florestano in outlining the plan, which features four years of education studies at the community college and Bowie State University for 30 students a year.
It also would include weekly experience in county public schools.
However, students would be required to repay the four-year scholarship if they fail to teach in the county for a minimum of four years.
"Over the next five years, we could lose 161 teachers, five guidance counselors and three pupil personnel workers," Edwards told board members.
"If three-fourths of the potential retirees would do so, it would take the next six years to regain the status quo.
"We need to realize that education is no longer one of (the few) professional opportunities open to minorities," he said.
Program costs for the school system are estimated at about $60,000 per year, to cover the salaries of 30 students working as a substitute or teacher's aide one day each week. Tuition, books and fees are covered by the community college for the first two years. Bowie State University would pick up costs for the junior and senior year.
School board member Patricia Huecker questioned whether students would be receiving a "free ride" at the county's expense. She also expressed concern about making a long-term financial commitment contingent upon other institutions upholding their end of the agreement.
But Florestano said the college is willing to hold up its end of the deal. Representatives from Bowie State were not present at the meeting.
He also dismissed the idea of a free ride, comparing MINT to the commitments students make upon acceptance to the Naval Academy.
"I don't see it as a free ride, since they will be providing a service to us," agreed Edwards. "They have to pay it (the scholarship) back if they don't follow through."
To qualify, students must have completed Algebra I, obtain an average score or better on college placement exams, and qualify to enter freshman-level English and reading courses at AACC. First preference is given to students who want to teach on the elementary level, then to students interested in secondary education.
To apply, students would need to submit two letters of recommendation from teachers, maintain a 2.5 grade-point average or above and write a 300-word essay on why they would like to teach, followed by a personal interview.
Final selection will be made by School Superintendent Larry L. Lorton, Florestano and a panel of professionals and community leaders.
"My board of trustees is prepared with financial aid and scholarships," Florestano said. "We simply are going to make it work on our end. We've just got to do this, that's all there is to it."