Transfer of teachers after start of term draws fire at two schools

September 21, 1994|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Sun Staff Writer

This week's transfer of six elementary and middle school teachers has raised an uproar among some parents whose children attend two schools that are each losing a teacher.

At Bushy Park Elementary, parents are launching a letter-writing campaign to school board members to keep a first-grade teacher from being moved. They say pulling the teacher out three weeks into the school year will disrupt their children's education.

"We're already a month into the school year, and here they're going to pull a teacher who they've already bonded with," said Dan Ennis, PTA president at Bushy Park Elementary. "They're just getting accustomed to a full day of class."

Swansfield Elementary School parents and staff worry that losing a teacher would affect class size and a school system initiative intended to raise the academic performance of marginally achieving students.

"It's a great concern," said Janet Oken, a parent at Swansfield.

They also say that enrollment traditionally increases through the school year, so the fifth-grade teacher who is scheduled to be transferred will be needed later.

Other parents are concerned about the remaining teachers who will have to rearrange their classes and teachers who will have to pack their supplies and posters and start over at new schools.

"I think the teachers give so much of themselves anyway," said Linda Garonik, whose 6-year-old son will be affected in the Bushy Park transfer. "They can only do so much. This would definitely make their life harder."

But Associate Superintendent James McGowan said the moves are necessary because of unexpected enrollment at other schools.

"We try to [make changes] before school," he said. "But there were still schools that were overenrolled and some schools that were underenrolled."

Schools that will lose a teacher are: Bollman Bridge, Bushy Park, Clemens Crossing and Swansfield elementary schools and Dunloggin and Harper's Choice middle schools.

Schools that will gain a teacher because of higher-than-projected enrollment are: Manor Woods, Thunder Hill and Pointers Run elementary schools and Mayfield Woods and Mount View middle schools.

Although Clemens Crossing Elementary is losing a teacher, it will share a part-time teacher for gifted and talented students with Pointers Run Elementary.

"We really began to make these decisions about the fifth or sixth day" into the school year, Dr. McGowan said. "It takes a while to get these things done. It's still early in the year."

The transfer decision drew the most protest at Bushy Park, where about 200 parents attended a meeting Monday night, deciding to start a letter-writing campaign to board members.

They dispute the school system estimate that the school has 23 fewer students than would warrant keeping the first-grade teacher who is leaving. They also say at least eight additional students will move into the district later this month and next month.

But a reversal is unlikely, according to Superintendent Michael E. Hickey.

"The transfers are going through," he said yesterday. "I understand all of their concerns. We just don't have the luxury of allowing them to remain overstaffed."

Under school system policy, the target teacher-to-student ratifor elementary schools is 1-to-25; for middle schools, 1-to-20.5; and for high schools, 1-to-23.5.

Having to move teachers after school has begun always idisruptive, Dr. Hickey said. But he added, "The longer it's drawn out, the more disruptive it's going to be."

School board Chairman Dana Hanna backed the superintendent's position. "Staff is going to have to do what is right," he said. "If you have a disagreement with that decision, then demonstrate the wrongness of the action."

Although Bushy Park parents are angry, some parents at other schools are not.

"It's something that happens every year, as a general rule," said Libby Killo, PTA president at Bollman Bridge Elementary School. "However, with trying to keep the budget contained, that's one way the Department of Education does that."

The Bollman Bridge transfer also affected a first-grade teacher, and parents "were prepared well enough, but I don't think anybody really likes it," Ms. Killo said. "We have had years when we have felt the bumps more than this year. In this particular situation, it went as well as it could."

Schools that will get teachers say they are needed to make class sizes more manageable.

"We're really happy that we will be getting an additional teacher," said Thomas Bruner, principal at Thunder Hill Elementary School, where classes have as many as 28 students. "Class sizes are larger than what we would like them to be."

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