Parents and teachers to talk planning time School board also invited to session

August 01, 1993|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

In the wake of an April school board decision to eliminate eight half-days of teacher planning time, parents and teachers union officials will meet in an effort to carve out time for planning during the school day.

Parents and teachers plan to find a solution to the problem at the meeting, said Jean R. Thomas, president of the Harford County Education Association. School board members have been invited to attend.

Kathy Carmello, who originated the idea of forming the committee, said parents want teachers to know they have not been forgotten.

"Teachers are so terribly, terribly hurt. They feel like their needs are being ignored," she said.

Mrs. Carmello, who has three children and is a member of the Ring Factory Elementary PTA in Bel Air, said details about the meeting are still sketchy.

She said she is not sure how many people will attend. But, she hopes the committee comes up with workable solutions before the start of the school year on Aug. 30.

Built-in time for planning is crucial, teachers and union officials say. It gives teachers a chance to develop coherent and nTC comprehensive lessons that benefit students.

Deletion of planning time has been a sore point with teachers since the school board decided in April to end the practice.

Superintendent Ray R. Keech said then that it would be up to elementary schools to find "creative" ways to restore the lost time.

Principals and teachers at some schools have already begun brain-storming and come up with some ideas.

Joseph Stevens, principal at Bakerfield Elementary in Aberdeen, for example, said one way to create planning time for teachers is to ask parent volunteers to supervise students when they arrive at school before the 9 a.m. starting time. Parents, he said, could also do early

morning housekeeping chores, such as taking attendance.

Daniel E. Harner, principal at Prospect Mill Road Elementary in Bel Air, said his school will cope by excusing about half the teachers, on a rotating basis, from cultural arts activities, such as a musical concert or play. The school's PTA sponsors the activities about once a month.

"In the past we required that all teachers attend, and now we are going to ask just half of them to be there. That will give the other teachers planning time," he said.

Another idea is to hold theme days, where special area teachers (those who in teach subjects such as media and art) would schedule most students from one grade level at a time, Mr. Harner said.

Teachers were outraged when the school board in April voted 6-1 to eliminate the eight half-days. They flooded board members with postcards and phone calls and picketed meetings to voice their displeasure.

But board members, with the exception of Thomas D. Hess, said the day care problems that the half-days caused working parents, coupled with lost classroom time, outweighed the teachers' concerns.

Also, Mr. Keech said, hiring 16 art teachers would give classroom teachers more planning time because that would expand the art program to each of the county's 29 elementary schools. Other classes that provide regular classroom teachers with planning time are physical education, music and media classes.

Teachers countered that the special area classes, typically one each day, do not make up for the lost eight half-days or about 32 hours of planning time.

Elementary teachers get about 41 minutes planning time each day, nearly 10 minutes less than secondary teachers, Mrs. Thomas said. She said that's not nearly enough time to prepare for class, photocopy handouts or grade papers.

George Lisby, school board member, said the board has no plans to restore the half-days and believes that each school can come up with a plan to provide planning time.

"Each school knows what works best for its community, teachers and students," he said.

He noted that Jarrettsville Elementary developed a plan to give teachers about 50 minutes of planning time each morning before school starts.

Teachers there come in 20 minutes early, at 8:10 a.m., but are free to leave 20 minutes early, at 3:30 p.m., when students leave, said Principal Gerard A. Mack. At most elementary schools, teachers' hours are 8:30 a.m. to 3:50 p.m.

Most students start arriving at the school about 8:45 a.m. and wait in the lobby or media center until school starts at 9 a.m., Mr. Mack said.

Marilyn Neidhart, a first-grade teacher at Jarrettsville, said team teaching would be impossible without the shared time to plan.

"It's important for teachers to be able to work together," she said. "Having some quiet time before the children come in lets us take a look ahead and plan lessons as a group."

Bus schedules are delayed about 15 minutes, so all bused students arrive at 8:45 a.m.

In the past, about half of the schools' 14 buses dropped students off at 8:30 a.m. The other half dropped students off at 8:45 a.m.

Paul E. Welch, Harford's transportation supervisor for schools, said the Jarrettsville Elementary plan costs the school system about $3,500 yearly in additional wages to pay the bus drivers who delay their rounds by 15 minutes.

"The $3,500 is not a significant cost, but if we did it for all schools it could cost $75,000 to $100,000," he said.

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