No need to tie his hands on transfers, Hickey says

February 03, 1994|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Sun Staff Writer

Howard School Superintendent Michael E. Hickey told the county's General Assembly delegation yesterday there's no need for state legislation limiting his authority to transfer school administrators.

Despite the protests of parents and students at Mount Hebron High last June after the transfer of the school's principal and two assistant principals, a bill proposed by Sen. Christopher J. McCabe, R-14, isn't necessary, Dr. Hickey said in Annapolis. He said a newly formed committee is already working to improve the transfer policy.

"I've been superintendent 10 years, and I've transferred over 100 administrators, and we never had a community uproar or reaction until last spring at Mount Hebron High School," Dr. Hickey said. "The school system is taking the appropriate steps involving the appropriate people to address concerns."

The delegation delayed voting on the bill while Mr. McCabe meets next week with Dr. Hickey, the school board and PTA representatives.

Mr. McCabe said he's encouraged about the Board of Education task force, which includes teachers and principals who were transferred, and parents, but he said he won't be satisfied until there are changes in the policy.

"Clearly the interest of the delegation and the bill itself is prompting some action," Mr. McCabe said.

Mr. McCabe's bill would prohibit the superintendent from transferring an entire administrative staff from one school, and establish requirements for a public process when 50 percent or more of an administration is transferred. The bill doesn't address the involuntary transfer of teachers.

Dr. Hickey, who transferred about 60 administrators and teachers last year, said he made limited use of his authority until two years ago when budget constraints compelled reassignments.

The committee is attempting to "make the process more humane and considerate" and "relieve the negative connotations people read into involuntary transfers," Dr. Hickey said.

In other school-related business, the delegation rejected Del. Virginia A. Thomas' proposal to earmark part of a hotel-room tax for repairs, renovations or additions at the county's older schools. The Columbia Democrat has advocated similar amendments for other local tax bills, saying she doesn't have faith that money for the projects will come from general county revenues.

The room tax bill -- which extends a 5 percent tax that raises about $1 million annually -- passed by a 6-3 vote.

Ms. Thomas asked County Executive Charles I. Ecker whether he would consider dedicating a portion of the tax money for construction projects at older schools. Mr. Ecker said the revenue will be part of the general fund, with a portion allocated to promote tourism.

Del. Robert H. Kittleman, a 14th District Republican, argued that county officials should decide how to allocate money for the school budget, and called Ms. Thomas' proposal "pure posturing."

"There's a strong, strong disposition in the legislature not to earmark funds," because it restricts flexibility and could result in wasteful spending once a need no longer exists, Mr. Kittleman said.

Ms. Thomas said that philosophy is a "hobgoblin of simple minds."

"I'm here as a state legislator to get things done for Howard County," she said. "There's a serious need to improve the condition of older schools. That's my job. I'm not posturing. I'm fighting for a need."

In other action, the delegation:

* Approved a bill, which has failed the past two years, requiring applicants for zoning changes to declare campaign contributions $500 or more to County Council members. Ms. Thomas was unsuccessful in her attempt to amend the bill.

* Rejected a proposal to tax parking spaces near the football stadium proposed by the Washington Redskins in Laurel.

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