Teachers' Job Action Leaves Volunteer Activities Up In Air

Back To School/beyond The Basics

September 01, 1991|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff writer

It won't be business as usual as county public schools prepare to open Tuesday under a tight budget and a teacher job action.

No one yet knows how the system's 31,000 students will be affected if teachers carry out their threat to stay home from unpaid after-hours activities. Teachers vowed to take that step after the county government tightened the school budget, forcing the school board to renege on a 6 percent raise in the teachers' contract.

But the teachers' action will not affect academics, pledged JamesR. Swab, president of the Howard County Education Association.

Teachers plan to curtail only their volunteer activities. Those who receive stipends for after-school activities, such as yearbook and math team sponsors, will continue to work with the student groups.

Indications are that some teachers will continue to volunteer for after-school and evening activities such as "Back to School" nights, club activities and dances, as they have in the past. Where teachers do not plan to volunteer, individual principals and parents are working out solutions.

At Hammond High School, for example, principal MarshallPeterson plans to recommend that the PTSA sponsor a "Back to School"morning on Oct. 8, when schools open late for teacher staff development sessions. The plan would offer parents a chance to meet their children's teachers during teachers' regular workday.

Peterson said he found teachers "really torn, but they feel a statement needs to be made because the quality of education, our competitive edge, is at risk."

Centennial Lane Elementary School principal Friedel U. Warneris considering an afternoon program to give parents a chance to meetthe teachers. The afternoon program would begin during the regular 7-hour, 35-minute workday, but might continue past it, Warner said.

Other schools plan traditional "Back to School" nights without teachers. At Mount Hebron High, faculty members agreed to leave instructional materials in the classrooms for parents to read.

At Glenelg High, principal James McGregor said he will discuss his goals for the year with parents at the PTSA-sponsored evening program. As at Mount Hebron, teachers will leave materials to acquaint parents with the educational program.

Hammond Elementary principal John C. Morningstarsays he is confident that many of his teachers will attend the evening program.

"I think they'll be there," he said. "I feel it is absolutely necessary to provide a Back to School night. . . It's a toughdecision for teachers, but you've got to have it at night" for parents to attend.

At Wilde Lake High School, some teachers have told principal Bonnie S. Daniel they will volunteer to chaperon dances and other evening activities this year.

"We will use the teachers herewho are willing to chaperon and will fill in with parents," Daniel said.

Withdrawing from volunteer activities "is the only leverage we have," said Glenelg High School social studies teacher James Mundy.Mundy said teachers are worried about more than the financial lossesthey took by getting neither raises nor experience steps this year. They are also worried about 1992-1993, he said.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker has promised a raise to county and school system employees, but has not said how much he thinks the county can afford. He is backing new taxes on motel rooms, utilities and telephones to broaden the county's revenue base, but said last week he will not lobby the county General Assembly delegation to get the taxing authority.

Superintendent Michael E. Hickey is legally obligated to base his budget on the negotiated contract, which would give teachers an average12 percent pay increase next year (6 percent lost in 1991-1992 plus 6 percent negotiated for the third year).

Hickey said he is also in sympathy with the teachers' feelings about the lack of a raise.

The superintendent, who has begun meeting with the faculties of each school, said he found teachers feeling "betrayed and unappreciated. .. . They need some reassurance, some affirmation from the community."

The teacher job action will be the most obvious fallout from thespring budget slashing that produced a $20 million cut in Hickey's $200.8 million request.

Other effects include:

* After-school and weekend art, dance and music programs will go on, but without transportation and with music program costs covered by a donation from an Ellicott City business and a new $40 tuition fee for students in the countywide elementary band, orchestra and chorus.

"We always try to put back into the system," said Christopher Tuel, director of operations for Music and Arts Center Inc., who increased his annual donation from about $1,500 to $2,000 this year and agreed to donate sheet music worth $1,000 to the chorus.

Other costs will be covered by shifting $18,000 allocated for transportation to the fine arts programs, Hickey said.

* Centennial High School will get its seven-period day back. Other schools, offered the option to follow Centennial in carving an extra period out of the lunch hour but, without additional teaching staff, decided against it.

At Hammond High, for example, "I think our primary concerns were the class size issue and not having all the resources we felt were necessary to fully implement it," said David A. Bruzga, former Hammond principal who is now head of Oakland Mills High.

* Routine interior and exterior painting of schoolshas been deferred, replacement carpet has been cut from the budget and the grounds maintenance staff has not been increased despite the opening of two new schools.

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