Teacher happy to be back in the classroom

September 09, 1994|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Sun Staff Writer

For music teacher Carol Russell, the return yesterday for a 16th year in city classrooms carried special meaning -- and a new career perspective.

Laid off in June by Superintendent Walter G. Amprey as part of a school system shakeup that also hit 47 other teachers, Ms. Russell didn't get her job back until last month.

"I must say, this is certainly different from other years," she said, walking into Morrell Park Elementary and Middle School. "I was very relieved not to have to go out and look for a job or to worry about fighting for my position again. It feels good to be back."

Ms. Russell, 41, was met with warm smiles from colleagues and grateful students at the close-knit school in southwest Baltimore.

"I'm extremely happy because she's an excellent teacher who has received superior ratings," said Principal Michaelle H. Nesbit, who had called school headquarters many times during the summer to ask about Ms. Russell's chances of being rehired. "Music is very important here because it's cultural enrichment and the children should be exposed to good music."

The school system layoffs, driven in part by a budget crunch, primarily hit teacher's aides and headquarters staff members.

So far, 33 teachers, including Ms. Russell, have been rehired, according to city school officials. Overall, 149 of the 256 laid-off employees were recalled to new or existing positions; eight resigned or retired after the pink slips were mailed out in late June.

The recalls have pleased officials of the Baltimore Teachers Union, which monitored the layoffs and rehirings throughout the summer.

"I like a good fight and this was a good fight," said Neil Ross, a BTU official who has served as a trouble-shooter for teachers who were released this summer. "They have recalled a number of people and they appear to be doing it based on contractual guidelines."

Rehirings have included 22 of 148 teacher's aides, 15 of 22 office employees from headquarters, and 12 of 17 other staff members, school officials said.

"We have made every effort to recall them and we are continuing to do so," said Donna Franks, spokeswoman for the school system. "Our goal was to rehire as many teachers as possible. The few that remain on the layoff list did not have the needed qualifications to fill the available positions, but they can be called back as the positions open up."

Ms. Russell, who earns about $41,000 annually, didn't look for another job this summer -- she was confident that she would be recalled because of her long tenure in the schools.

But as Ms. Russell settles back into her teaching routine, laid-off teacher Nick Ciattei, 63, still waits for good news in his Parkville home.

The brick mason, who taught his trade at Carver Vo-Tech High School for six years, said he has spent the summer worrying about the loss of his paycheck, unemployment benefits and medical insurance. He has signed up as a substitute teacher, but hopes to return to his full-time, $31,000-salary job soon.

"The layoff took a toll on all of us. It has been hanging over our heads all summer," said his wife, Darlis.

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