Teachers Are Refusing To Volunteer

Schools Try Alternatives To Keep Activities Going

September 18, 1991|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff writer

Homecoming will go on as usual at Howard High School Oct. 12, but a wall-painting contest will be substituted for the traditional float parade because the marching band director and junior ROTC sponsor are not volunteering to help with the activity this year.

Centennial High School teachers announced during the first week of school that students coming in after school to make up missed work must complete it by 3:10 p.m., the end of the seven-hour, 35-minute work day called for in their contract.

At Atholton, Glenelg and Mount Hebron High Schools, parents arriving for "Back to School" night programs -- a traditional introduction to their children's teachers and courses of study for the year -- will find stacks of course outlines left behind by the teachers, who will be at home.

FOR THE RECORD - In Wednesday's Howard County Sun, the story on the teachers' job action at Howard High School didn't convey that the school administration made the decision to cancel the homecoming parade because an overall lack of support from the teaching staff.

Many teachers are refusing to participate in unpaid after-school and evening activities this year to protest budget cuts by County Executive Charles I. Ecker that cost teachers the 6 percent salary increase called for in their contract.

At Howard High's first PTSA meeting of the school year Monday night, the approximately 100 parents attending expressed neither surprise nor dismay at the teachers' absence.

Parents asked how they could help lobby for more money for education or whether specific activities, such as school plays, would go on. Only one parent spoke out against the teacher job action at the meeting. "It seems to me that we're depriving our children. I object to that," she said.She refused to give her name.

Howard parents who can take time from their jobs will have a chance to meet their children's teachers ata "Back to School" morning Oct. 8, when high schools are scheduled to open two hours late.

The delayed opening was built into the school schedule last spring to allow teachers time for professional development. Hammond and Oakland Mills also plan "Back to School" morningsOct. 8.

Students' academic work will not be affected by the job action, pledged James R. Swab, president of the county teachers union.He said most teachers are continuing to grade papers and prepare lesson plans in the evening.

Writing letters of recommendation for college is a time-consuming, unpaid service that always has been at thediscretion of the teacher, Swab said. Most teachers will still writeletters of recommendation for college-bound students this year, "butthey may find creative ways of doing it during the school day."

Getting a handle on the extent and impact of the teacher job action islike trying to pin down an octopus with one finger.

Rosemary E.S.Mortimer, president of the PTA Council of Howard County, said her sources indicate that participation in the job action varies from school to school and even from teacher to teacher.

"It's absolutely on a case-by-case basis," she said. She said parents are sympathetic, "but they don't want to see anything that is going to affect their kids."

Superintendent Michael E. Hickey, Associate Superintendent James R. McGowan and high schools Director Daniel L. Jett could not be reached Tuesday for comment on how widespread the teacher job action appears to be.

Creating confusion is the fact that the job action calls for teachers to withdraw only from unpaid activities, not those that carry a stipend. Some clubs lack sponsors for reasons other than the job action.

At Oakland Mills High School, for example, students are looking for a parent to sponsor the computer club, an unpaid extracurricular activity.

But the math team, which carries a stipend, also still needs a sponsor for this year, according to William Craig, head of the math department. Two teachers bowed out because of other commitments, he said.

Swab acknowledged that teachers are making individual decisions about participating in activities.

"It's hard to put a percentage on it, but I think you'll find that close to 100 percent of our members are withdrawing at least some type of voluntary services."

The county school system employs about 2,100 teachers.

Howard High School Principal Eugene L. Streagle Jr. said he thinks the impact of the job action on the life of the school will be minimal.

Assistant principals are taking over the unpaid sponsorship of the freshman and sophomore classes and a parent will work with a student team that will compete on the television show, "It's Academic."

Streagle has warned faculty members against letting the issuedivide them.

"I didn't want any 'he is' (volunteering), 'she is.'I won't tolerate that, because one day soon this will all be over," he said.

High schools are relying on parents, administrators and additional security guards to chaperon school dances this year in the teachers' absence.

Oakland Mills PTSA President Kimberly Rosado said parents at her school have responded well to the call for chaperons.

"In high school, kids often don't want their parents there, butthis year they're more willing to have their parents chaperon," she said.

Centennial students Jon Osborne, a junior, and Brian Diehl, a senior, said they haven't seen any effects of the teacher job action at their school. But Osborne was pessimistic about the job action'spotential to loosen the county government's purse strings.

"I don't think it'll work," he said. "Governments don't seem to work very fast."

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