Barbara Remias squeezed her way to the microphone Wednesday night tothank School Superintendent Larry L. Lorton for including 12 health aide positions in their proposed 1991-1992 budget.
As vice president of the Secretaries and Assistants Association of Anne Arundel County, she is hoping the additions will mean an end to secretaries interrupting their typing to dispense medicine and check on bloody noses.
But Remias' gratitude may be for naught. Even if the school boardfollows Lorton's recommendation, there's no guarantee the County Council -- which holds the purse strings -- will follow suit. In fact, given the overall economic gloom and calls for zero budget growth, anyrequest for new positions may be doomed.
School officials shake their heads in frustration when they talk about next year. Even thoughLorton's proposed $358.7 million operating budget includes few increases or new initiatives, those programs that survive board scrutiny will face a tough battle before the county.
Nevertheless, a crowd of more than 250 people lined the walls of the Board of Education's Riva Road headquarters. Some displayed signs and banners in support of their schools, while others listened quietly in the hallway.
Lorton admitted the odds are stacked against getting money for the health aides and putting an end to complaints from secretaries who want to see nurses at schools. The 12 positions would cost the system $175,000.
"I doubt if we get the health aides," Lorton said. "The secretaries' position is very valid, and the request by parents that there besomeone with trained health skills is a very valid request. But the board will have to make choices between health assistants and teachers to confront class size and increased enrollment. There is no end tothe competition for each dollar."
That much certainly was clear. Parents spoke in favor of projects ranging from easing overcrowding at Deale Elementary in South County to providing more options for gifted and talented students on the elementary level.
Parents from Tracey's Elementary carried large signs saying, "Get Our Children out of the Closets" and "We Need More Room Last Year at Tracey Elementary."
Jim DeCarmine, chairman of the school's Citizen Advisory Committee, asked that Tracey's be placed higher on the board's priority list, up from its current 32nd position on the capital projects list.
"The teachers' lounge is used for music classes," DeCarmine said. "The resource teacher works in a closet. The principal must move out of her office for psychological testing, counseling or other meetings."
Parents with students at Central Elementary asked that special education services not be cut.
"My sense of the citizen and parent testimony is that it showed a much sharper awareness of their understanding of my recommendations to the board," Lorton said. "While I thinkthey know that the board cannot address every request to everyone's satisfaction, the testimony is a great help.
"One of the most difficult decisions the board has to make is to decide whether they will send a budget over (to County Council) that will reflect the needs ofthe school system or reflect what the county dictates to the board of what the prospects look like."
The next public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13, at Old Mill Senior. The operating and capital budgets will be adopted during a meetingat 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, at Board of Education headquarters on Riva Road.
Once adopted, the budget's will be sent to County Executive Robert R. Neall, who then will send his own proposal to the County Council. The council can vote to restore money trimmed by the county executive.