School System Shake-up HOWARD COUNTY

June 22, 1993

Any change can be unsettling, and unsolicited change can be traumatic. Still, we find Howard County Superintendent Michael Hickey's recent transfer of principals and teachers to new job assignments satisfactory and reasonable. A superintendent must have the responsibility and leeway -- and does under state law -- to order transfers as deemed necessary for the good of the system.

Absent any concrete evidence that something other than the school system's goals are the basis for these decisions, the superintendent's dictates should be followed. There is no evidence to suggest, as have some teachers and the Howard County Education Association, that Dr. Hickey was seeking reprisals against outspoken employees when he ordered 38 of them to new schools next year.

Likewise, we can find nothing sinister in the transfer of a new principal and assistant principals to Mount Hebron High School. Parents there are appealing that decision, voicing fears that a new principal would change traditions at the school.

The fact is the tradition within the school system has been to transfer principals on an average of every five years; that is what is happening at Mount Hebron. As for school customs, we feel certain that these changes will not lead to a change of traditions at these schools. Special flag raisings or homecoming rituals can -- and should -- remain.

Sylvia Pattillo, who will take over as principal of Mount Hebron this fall, is an accomplished administrator who comes from the premier high school in the county, Centennial. She should be welcomed in her new home.

School officials readily admit that they are transferring teachers more than ever this year in response to increasing enrollment and shortages in subject areas. Too often we hear of teachers coveting certain positions at certain schools or grade levels, and once obtaining them, expecting to remain there until retirement. Such entrenchment is not necessarily productive. Like principals, teachers need different experiences to remain current with their subject area and the best teaching methods.

We agree with Dr. Hickey when he says, "The needs of the schools and the school system require that we expand our use of transfers and changes in assignments as development opportunities for all staff -- as the private sector has done for years."

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