New school opens with excitement, wariness Berger stresses need for teacher pay boost

September 09, 1992|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Staff Writer

Baltimore County school Superintendent Stuart Berger said yesterday that a pay increase for the county's teachers will be among his top priorities for the 1993-1994 education budget.

The teachers "haven't had a raise in three years. Everything is important, but we've just got to find a way to compensate them," Dr. Berger said.

However, Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who joined Dr. Berger and state school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick on an opening-day tour of Fort Garrison Elementary School, said the state's budget crisis, including a $500 million deficit, could further cut state aid to local schools.

"No budget won't be touched," he said.

Baltimore County teachers and other school employees had their last cost-of-living pay increase in January 1991 -- a 4 percent raise delayed until halfway through the school year. There were no cost-of-living raises for the 1991-1992 or 1992-1993 school years.

Last spring, teachers helped finance the county's budget deficits by giving up four days' pay through involuntary furloughs. Twelve-month employees lost five days' pay.

Any raises approved by the county school board must survive budget cuts by the county executive and the County Council at a time when both face cuts in state aid.

Mr. Schaefer, who handed out pencils to children as they got off the morning buses, said that barring an unexpected "groundswell" favoring a tax increase, the budget crisis would affect all quarters of state government, including local aid and education. He said he hoped the cuts would not be felt at the school level in areas such as classroom supplies.

Dr. Berger said he would "just have to wait and make the best" of whatever cuts the state passes along to the county.

Only "extraordinary circumstances" would lead to layoffs, he said, adding that "we really don't want to have furloughs."

A 20 percent cut in money to pay short-term substitute teachers and aides is among the cutbacks ordered this year to avoid other drastic cost-cutting measures.

School principals will fill the gap with "creative solutions," Dr. Berger said. For example, all members of the supervisory staff with teaching experience -- up to and including Dr. Berger -- will be asked to help fill in as substitutes.

At Fort Garrison, opening day appeared to go smoothly despite over flow enrollment. Principal Ann Glazer said she has 496 students in kindergarten through fifth grade this year, 26 more than last year and 140 more than the school was designed for.

"We just have to use every available space," she said.

Two classroom trailers and the school cafeteria, which doubles as a music room during some periods, are being used. And a storage room for books also is being used by small groups.

Jim Kraft, planning manager for the county schools, said 60 percent of the county's 94 elementary schools are filled beyond their intended capacities, with 4,000 students meeting in 156 trailer classrooms.

Redistricting won't address the crowding at Fort Garrison because all neighboring schools are at or beyond capacity, he said. Construction of the 750-student Mays Chapel Elementary School at Padonia and Jenifer roads would bring relief to Fort Garrison and three neighboring schools.

Because cuts in state aid have delayed the school's construction for three years, the county has decided to ask voters for authority to borrow $8.4 million for the project. The money is part of a $46 million school bond issue on the November ballot, pared down from $91.5 million. If the bond issue passes, the Mays Chapel school could be built to open in September 1995. The referendum also will seek $2.2 million to buy 55 more portable classrooms.

During yesterday's tour, Mr. Schaefer spent some time answering students' questions in Carolyn Hubberman's fifth-grade class. Asked whether it was hard to be governor, he said it was "very difficult right now" because of the state's budget deficit.

"It used to be a nice job, but now it's not quite what it was," he said.

Asked whether he plans to run for any other office once he completes his term in 1994, Mr. Schaefer said, "Yes." But he added, "I don't know what I'm going to run for."

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