With budget woes already affecting Anne Arundel Community College, officials there backed away yesterday from a program created to help minority students qualify for county teaching jobs.
A second partner in the project, Bowie State University, didn't send a representative to a county school board meeting, at which members deferred voting on the proposal.
Last month, AACC president Thomas Florestano pledged support for Project MINT, the minority teacher training program that was to be a collaborative effort between the county school system, the community college and Bowie State.
But yesterday, James Atwell, AACC's vice president of academic affairs, withdrew the commitment of providing tuition, books and fees for the first two years to a selected group of20 students who would then have gone on to Bowie State to obtain teaching certificates.
Instead, Atwell said, the college would try toget money to pay for the program from outside sources. Atwell said that the college would have had to get approval for waivers of tuitionfrom its board of trustees before going ahead.
"I think he (Florestano) had in mind a waiver that would come from the board of trustees," Atwell said.
"Our problem is that our board (of trustees) cannot simply waive tuition," Atwell said. "In turn we would lose state aide. Tuition provides approximately one-third of our budget. We wouldbe taking away twice as much as the cost of tuition."
"I'm hopeful they (the trustees) will be supportive" in finding a way to make the program work, said Atwell.
"The financial situation is certainlya consideration. Our expectation will be that we will be able to getoutside funding. What I think this (school) board will be asked to do is take a risk with some seed money. I think it's a valuable program and want to see it move ahead."
Project MINT was developed by the school system, the college and Bowie State after predictions of severe shortages of minority teachers in the county.
School board members deferred voting on the plan yesterday after questions were repeatedly raised about the community college's commitment. Members also said they were disheartened by Bowie State's apparent lack of interestin the meeting.
"I am disturbed that Bowie State is not here," board member Patricia Huecker said. "They are on the hook for the largest part of this. I took Anne Arundel Community College at their word that they would include tuition, books and fees, and from Bowie to mean a full scholarship.
"It's a wonderful idea, but without money, I have no idea how we can make it work."
Under the plan, the school system would have selected students and paid an estimated $54,000 to hire the students to work as as teacher's aides and substitutes once a week while they attended college. The community college had committed to about $1,800 per year for each student to cover tuition and books. Bowie's share would have amounted to $4,000 for each student tocomplete their junior and senior years. After students earned teaching certificates, they would have been obligated to return to work in the county school system or repay tuition costs.
School Superintendent Larry L. Lorton said he had gotten a solid commitment from Bowie State officials, but admitted he was surprised by Atwell's commentsduring the meeting. As the final presentation was given during the meeting yesterday, Atwell told board members the college's contribution never included waiving tuition fees.
Frustrated by the change ofheart from college officials, Jerry Lyons, who headed the school system's committee for Project MINT said, "I feel a little hung out to dry. Now I am finding out that some things have changed."
The proposal will go before school board members again later in the year. Mostsaid they favored the plan, but would need firm financial commitments.