Howard leads in transfers School staff shuffles avoided elsewhere

June 27, 1993|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

The involuntary transfer of more than 60 Howard County teachers and administrators -- which has triggered protests from parents and students -- is unique among school districts in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

Of five other school districts surveyed, none uses "administrative" or involuntary transfers as extensively as Howard County. In announcing the transfers June 10, Superintendent Michael E. Hickey defended the moves as an inexpensive and creative career-development tool.

Although state law permits involuntary transfers, school officials outside Howard say they try to avoid them because they disrupt and destroy relationships among teachers, parents and students.

Dr. Hickey, who authorized the moves, cited contrasts in management philosophies as the reason for the difference. He feels change is healthy and good.

"Part of what it means to most people is you don't stay in the same assignment and same responsibilities forever," Dr. Hickey said. "We have one of the strongest staff development programs in the state. This is just part of that program."

If other schools don't do it, they should reconsider, said school board Chairman Dana Hanna. Shuffling employees enables teachers to learn from others who have different styles and abilities, he said.

"I would hope maybe at some point it would be recognized . . . that this is just something that will occur, and those affected should not take it in such a deeply personal fashion," he said.

Punitive and arbitrary is how critics describe the moves, which launched protests and school board meetings and letter-writing campaigns among parents seeking to appeal the decisions.

In surrounding school districts, such transfers are limited and hanSee dled differently, officials said.

In Anne Arundel, administrative transfers are rarely issued, said Carol Parham, human resources director. "We look at administrative transfers to be utilized in very extreme situations that cannot be resolved," she said.

Teachers' relationships

One reason is that teachers and principals work well together, said Jane Doyle, schools spokeswoman. "They have effective relationships in the schools," she said, adding that only when those relationships don't work well do school officials resort to transfers.

Ten to 20 Anne Arundel teachers have received such transfers over the past four years, Ms. Parham said.

In other districts:

* Apart from moving teachers to accommodate changing enrollments, Harford County rarely requires transfers, according to Al Seymour, a spokesman for the Harford County school system. "It's just not been done in the past," he said. "We probably would not do it unless there is an agreement we do it. We would be considerate of the feelings of the person."

* In Baltimore County, teachers who are targeted for administrative transfers may list 10 schools to which they would like to be reassigned. Giving teachers the option of picking the school makes them feel more comfortable, according to Randall Grimsley, Baltimore County schools' staff development office director.

* Carroll County teachers have a clause in their contract that allows the superintendent to reassign them as necessary. "We have not had to invoke that clause," said Bill Rooney, director of personnel for Carroll County schools. "Every summer, we do an awful lot of voluntary transfers to meet the needs of the school system."

Carroll's small teaching staff -- about 1,300 teachers -- is also a reason for the infrequency of involuntary transfers, he said. With fewer teachers, Carroll's schools have fewer turnovers.

* Baltimore Superintendent Walter Amprey says he issues administrative transfers if a teacher's skills are needed elsewhere, among other reasons. "As a rule, I've never been involved where it's done to further staff development," he said. But "it seems like a sensible thing to do if you can pull it off."

He said he would consider doing the same in Baltimore only after considerable study.

More staff involvement

The National Education Association, the national teachers' union, would like to see more staff involvement in such transfer decisions. The staff knows the needs and strengths of the school, says Arden Shumaker, a specialist in NEA's collective bargaining unit.

"It really should be from teachers, who know what they have to deal with, [rather] than from administrators, who are far removed from the classroom," he said.

Howard school board Chairman Dana Hanna disagrees. Opening the process would turn it into a contest in which personalities would be the determining factor, he said.

A national group for school superintendents has a different viewpoint.

"It is simply one management tool," said Bruce Hunter, a senior director for the American Association of School Administrators. "If a person is not working out in one particular setting, . . . you ought to be able to move them."

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