Art, music, physical education and media teachers in the county's elementary schools are worried that their needs are getting lost in discussions designed to find planning time for regular classroom teachers.
These so-called special-area teachers say that they are being asked to carry an unfair burden as school administrators, teachers and parents wrestle with the issue of how to make up for the eight half-days of planning time regular teachers lost when the school board voted to eliminate them in last April.
Having to prove that special-area classes require just as much work and planning as regular classes is a "constant irritant," said Linda Milano, the art teacher for Jarrettsville Elementary.
The school system budget for the school year that begins Aug. 30 includes money to hire 16 additional art teachers so that all elementaries can offer art education.
Art classes teach children how to follow directions and how to identify shapes, two skills they need for reading and writing and math.
Special-area teachers lost the same eight half-days that regular classroom teachers did. But, special-area teachers say, they are being left out of the process even as administrators, teachers and parents consider ways to make up the time.
"Our concern is that in the rush to find planning time for classroom teachers, schools are forgetting that special-area teachers need planning time too," said Jean R. Thomas, president of the Harford County Education Association, the teachers' union. She said that some of the solutions offered to find planning time hinge on special-area teachers carrying an unfair burden.
One idea is to have special-area teachers show films, or develop other programs, for students while the classroom teachers plan. Another proposal has special-area teachers watching children before school, freeing the regular teachers.
Christine Haggett, one of two physical education teachers at Ring Factory Elementary in Bel Air, said that special-area teachers need their own planning time because they have a curriculum with skills they must teach their students.
Ms. Haggett said that special-area teachers are already called on atmany schools to supervise children when they get on and off buses.
She said she also needs time before school to get ready for the students.
Special-area teachers are also supposed to work with the classroom teacher to reinforce what the children are learning.
Ms. Haggett said that last year, when she taught one day a week at Prospect Mill Elementary in Bel Air, she worked with kindergarten teachers to develop lessons that emphasised the classroom learning.
Giving the children the same information but in different settingsand different ways helped them learn faster and remember the information longer, she said.
Kathy Carmello, who is chairing a committee on teacher planning time, said her group of teachers, parents and teacher union officials is committed to finding a plan that will work for all elementary school teachers, including special-area teachers.
The committee, which has met twice, has the blessings of the teachers' union, the HCEA and the Harford County Council of PTAs. Mrs. Carmello said that the committee will present its solutions to the school system, possibly in October.