Less turmoil in teacher transfers

March 07, 1994

The Howard County school system appears to be moving toward a compromise on the issue of involuntarily transferring teachers and administrators.

The agreement, if reached, could put an end to the contentious battle over the transfer of more than 60 administrators and teachers last year. Those transfers were approved by Superintendent Michael E. Hickey, who now appears willing to accept a process that will give more advance notice to those being considered for transfers in the future.

Implicit in Mr. Hickey's decision to compromise is an acknowledgment that some of last year's transfers were handled poorly.

Some moves were particularly controversial -- notably the transfers of the principal and vice principals of Mount Hebron High School. These moves were not announced until two days before the end of the school year, and parents were understandably angered. They sought the help of state Sen. Christopher J. McCabe, who proposed legislation in Annapolis this session that would have tied the hands of the superintendent when it came to administrative transfers.

Senator McCabe has since withdrawn the legislation, feeling that the proposed bill and the Mount Hebron community's ire had forced the school system to compromise.

To the extent his analysis is correct -- and school officials deny that they felt at all pressured -- the bill may have had the residual effect of forcing a compromise over teacher transfers as well.

Under a proposal Mr. Hickey is slated to make to a task force looking at the issue, administrators and the school PTA would be told of pending administrative transfers at least 30 days before the end of the school year.

Teachers would be notified of an involuntary transfer by the principal of his or her school no later than Jan. 31. The reason would be communicated privately, and the teacher would then have the option of transferring voluntarily instead.

School officials aren't giving away the store with this proposal. The ultimate decision to transfer would still rest with the superintendent, as it should.

Among the teachers who were involuntarily transferred last year, six tried to go to arbitration over the issue but were turned down by a county judge. We hope this new and more rational transfer policy discourages such discord.

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