Hard calls, tough times: School spending to shift

January 15, 1995|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Sun Staff Writer

An article in Sunday's Anne Arundel edition of The Sun incorectly reported the increase in the budget that School Superintendent Carol S. Parham has proposed for fiscal 1996. The correct figure is $28.7 million.

* The Sun regrets the error.

Twenty-one jobs in the highest echelons of the Anne Arundel County school system would be eliminated under the $437.7 million budget proposal released late last week by Superintendent Carol S. Parham.

Fifteen of the positions are occupied, and although the school board must approve the reorganization plan and the budget, Dr. Parham said she has already talked to the people affected by her proposal.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

The budget proposal also would eliminate the school system's basic adult education program, but Dr. Parham said she is working with Martha A. Smith, president of Anne Arundel Community College, to see if the college can sponsor the program.

The budget proposal, to be formally presented to the eight-member school board Wednesday, is about $51 million higher than the current $386 million operating budget. About 55 percent of the school system's budget comes from the county, while federal, state and grant money make up the remainder.

Eliminating the 21 positions would save about $1 million.

Dr. Parham wants to spend the $1 million on instruction materials, a category that includes textbooks and other items used in teaching, such as frogs for biology, food for home economics class, and paper for photocopiers. But Dr. Parham has said she would prefer the money be spent on books.

Overall, the materials budget would be increased by $3 million, or 58 percent. The impact will be felt more by school principals, who should find an extra 66 percent in their materials budgets. "There will be some negative reactions to what I'm doing, but I'm trying to change how people think and exist," Dr. Parham said.

Although her budget provides for 61 more teachers to handle burgeoning student enrollment, there is no money for a cost-of-living raise for employees.

"This is not a happy place right now," Dr. Parham acknowledged in an interview Friday. "But I've got to make hard decisions. This is like 'Star Trek' -- we're going where no person has gone before."

Michael A. Pace, school board president, said, "I think Dr. Parham has shown a great deal of courage." He was briefed on the budget earlier last week.

"This is her first budget and it's consistent with my position that we need to have a new way of doing things as far as the school administration is concerned," he said.

He said restructuring is never easy.

"Every cut is a tough cut because you're not talking about some statistic on a page, you're talking about a real human being that has presumably a family and a mortgage to take care of," Mr. Pace said. "On the other hand, our first obligation is to the children and the taxpayers, and I stand behind Dr. Parham and her cuts."

The 15 staff members who will be affected will be invited to apply for other jobs, Dr. Parham said.

Their present duties will be divided among other staff members as Dr. Parham reviews the mission of each division.

Eleanor Harris, an assistant to the superintendent, is one of those whose jobs will be eliminated. Dr. Harris had developed new policy, acted as a liaison with PTAs and Citizen Area Councils and attended community meetings on the superintendent's behalf.

Her duties in preparing new policy will be handled by the newly hired staff attorney. Her other duties will be reassigned.

The restructuring of the administrative staff, based on a study by Walter Chitwood, chief of staff for former County Executive Robert R. Neall, follows by six months a shake-up among school principals in which most of the county's 12 high schools got new leaders.

"I think the Chitwood report makes what I did on Aug. 3 seem reasonable -- that's the day I blew up because we were top-heavy with eight different layers of filtering and directors and supervisors and assistant supervisors," said Thomas Twombly, school board vice president.

The report says, "There appears to be an excessive number of directors," and Dr. Parham has said she will reduce the number of area directors by four. If the plan is approved, the directors will be responsible for kindergarten through 12th grade, instead of being responsible only for elementary, middle or high schools.

"One of the problems with the way it's set up now is you have some turfs set up, and the high school people blaming the middle school people blaming the elementary people for problems we're having with students," Dr. Parham said.

The personnel changes at headquarters on Riva Road in Annapolis mean students will benefit in the end, she said.

"'We need to get more dollars back in the classroom' -- that is what I was hearing from the public," Dr. Parham said. "Some of these positions we're eliminating have bodies in them, some do not. I know what happens when big companies just jettison people. I have talked to everyone individually. It isn't easy to look everyone in their baby blues and baby browns, but I inherited this castle on ice and I'm playing catch-up."

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