Keech bid to cut planning time angers teachers

April 04, 1993|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

Harford elementary teachers say they're infuriated about the superintendent's plan to eliminate eight half-days of planning time.

"That planning time is vital. The school system is already asking elementary teachers to do more with less," said Jean R. Thomas, president of the Harford County Education Association, the teachers union.

Superintendent Ray R. Keech plans to ask the school board tomorrow night to abolish the half-days for the 685 teachers at Harford's 28 elementary schools. Children, he argues, need that instruction time. The half-days also cause a child care nightmare for many parents, he said.

During half-days, elementary students go home after lunch, and teachers typically stay until the end of their work day, about 4 p.m. Elementary school runs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Mr. Keech said the school system plans to give teachers more planning time by hiring 16 art teachers next year, enough to expand the art program to all elementary schools.

That means all elementary students will get weekly art classes as well as library classes and twice-weekly gym and music classes. And that will give each teacher an average of 41 minutes of daily planning time, Mr. Keech said.

Mrs. Thomas said elementary school teachers will still get an average of about 10 minutes less planning time than secondary teachers. Most elementary teachers get about 41 minutes; secondary teachers get about 50 minutes, she said.

Anne D. Sterling, school board president, said she hopes a compromise can be reached.

"Both sides are making a good case," she said. "Maybe we can give teachers their half-days but keep kids in school, out of the classroom doing a recreational activity like watching cartoons in the gym."

She said she remains undecided on how she will vote.

Elementary teachers have deluged school board members with postcards urging the retention of the half-days. Mrs. Sterling said she got about 60, while Keith Williams, a school board member, said he got about 100.

Mr. Williams said he will probably will vote to abolish the half-days.

"One of the biggest complaints elementary school teachers have is that secondary teachers get more time," Mr. Williams said. "Secondary teachers need that time because they have more students."

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