Ironically, stalled contract negotiations and the end of a healthy three-year contract may have helped prevent teacher layoffs this year.
School officials expect they will be able to avoid a repeat of last year, when 10 teachers were laid off, thanks to the large number of retirees this year. The 102 school-system employees opting for retirement include 72 teachers, seven principals, six assistant principals, five guidance counselors, four instruction coordinators and three pupil-personnel workers.
"The bulk of them had planned on retiring at the end of the three-year contract," said John A. Makell, supervisor of professional personnel. "We had a rush of retirees in the month of May."
Teachers are ending the final year of a three-year contract in which they received three consecutive 9 percent increases. Those increased salaries, combined with the lack of any pay raises for the 1991-1992 school year, may have been enough to persuade some teachers to opt for retirement earlier than planned.
But the issues urging educators to pack their books go beyond money. Some complain that new stringent state requirements through the Maryland School Performance Program leave thempowerless to the state's control.
Under the plan to set standardsfor state schools, curricula may be changed in order to improve scores on the state's functional tests, which measure students' performance in four skill areas. Teachers describe the many instructional changes as too much too soon.
Last month, the state required elementary-school pupils to take a new weeklong test that caused uproar in county schools.
Teachers say they were not able to see the exam's instructions before administering it. Principals report chaos in supervising a test whose directions many average and below-average pupils could not understand.
Olin Yoder, the county's 1990 Teacher of the Year, and his wife, Betty Lou, retired at the end of this school year,with a combined total of 79 years of teaching experience.
"Thingsare changing," said Mrs. Yoder, who spent most of her 39 years in the system teaching first grade at Linthicum Elementary. "I would thinkit would be tough on the new teachers.
"I could be wrong; maybe they will like the changes. To me, they keep coming up with new ideas,but it comes back to the same thing: Kids need to know the basics. Ilike it the old way."
Tom Paolino, head of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, said more retirements will follow unless teachers are involved more in making decisions about schools.
He complained about a principals meeting this week to address upcoming curriculum changes -- a meeting, he said, to which teachers were not invited.
"I don't think it's over by any means," Paolino said. "If people are leaving because of conditions, I hope that they will put it on their forms. We're losing a lot of good people."