School board liaison praises his job, then rejects it

May 12, 1994|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Sun Staff Writer

Taking the Baltimore County school board by surprise, its community liaison strongly endorsed his job but said he no longer wants it.

In his regular report to the board Tuesday night, Leonard Duffy said he was "pleasantly surprised" by the part-time position, created in November, and considered it a "valuable, valuable resource for the system."

"I certainly think . . . it [should] be continued as an independent position," he said. But, he added, "past June 30, I don't want to be considered."

Mr. Duffy said that as president of the Towson consulting business, Support Services Group Inc., he travels often, making it difficult for him to handle problems promptly.

"It sounds like Mr. Duffy has tendered his resignation," said board President Alan M. Leberknight.

The board then voted to continue the liaison position another year. Only board member Mary Katherine Scheeler opposed the motion, saying Mr. Duffy's good start would enable someone within the school system to do the job, thus saving money that could be put into instruction.

Mr. Duffy, who lives in Towson and has two children in county schools, has a contract through June for $14,500.

The Baltimore County Schools Task Force, which the board created last summer to investigate thorny issues that ignited the community, recommended that the board establish two ombudsmen: one for parents and another for employees.

The board initially rejected the proposals, saying they were "well-intentioned" but illegal and likely to interfere with collective bargaining between the board and its employee unions. After considerable public pressure, however, the board agreed to combine the two jobs into one liaison position.

Mr. Duffy told the board he received 630 calls from parents and teachers from mid-November through April 30, an average of six a day. His busiest month was March, when he received 186 calls. Many of those concerned make-up time for snow days and the unhappiness of parents whose youngsters were not accepted at two new magnet schools.

A typical call, he said, lasted 20 to 45 minutes and often focused on specific issues.

Among recurring issues were class size, allocation of staff and materials, communication and situations arising from including children with disabilities in neighborhood schools. "There is a concern that the regular kids are suffering because of the time taken up by special-needs kids," Mr. Duffy said.

Often, callers just wanted someone to talk to, Mr. Duffy said. "People feel that the system is not communicating at their level, using their language. Looking at the schools as a business, parents are the clients. These people are important, and we have to talk to them."

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