PTA council in quandary over job

January 22, 1995|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,Sun Staff Writer

The Harford County Council of PTAs (HCCPTA) voted Thursday to support a controversial school job, only to have its president decide Friday to examine the legalities of the motion.

Now, in all likelihood, the county school board will discuss the position for a coordinator of community mobilization and the rest of the proposed 1995-1996 operating budget at tomorrow's public work session without a recommendation on the job from the PTA council.

"HCCPTA will not be able to speak on this, because it's unfinished business," said its president, Andre Fournier. He is seeking a clarification on parliamentary procedure to contend with issues raised during the 3 1/2 -hour meeting. Although PTA council members voted to back the coordinator position, other issues about the job were not discussed.

Mr. Fournier had asked the group to consider three aspects: "One, is there a need for the position? Two, what do we want the person to do? And, three, what kind of priority do we want to give it in the budget, and who's going to fund it?"

Mr. Fournier said he plans to hold another meeting to withdraw the motion of support and start again.

An informational meeting also was held Tuesday to discuss the job. An PTA council draft was distributed which called the position a "parental involvement coordinator" and described it, in part, as "taking an active role in the education of one's child."

"The definition denies a lot," said parent Cindy Sharretts of Jarrettsville.

Some participants also maintained that the position should be financed by grant money, and others argued to keep it in the operating budget. "If it's a grant job, it's chancy," said parent Margaret Rohrbaugh of Bel Air. "You would spend energy getting money for your job."

Asked about grant availability, Thomas W. Small, administrative assistant in grants for the school system, said, "It's a lot more difficult to get [grant] funds where a position is involved, as opposed to curriculum materials."

Superintendent Ray R. Keech hasn't been specific about the job. He had briefed the PTA council on the proposed budget at Thursday's meeting. "I've also added a coordinator of community mobilization, or coordinator of volunteers or whatever," he said. "I don't have a definition. If you have a definition, write one and send it to me."

The position was proposed two years ago in the 1993-1994 budget, but was deleted in favor of spending the money on full-time assistant principals, said school board member George D. Lisby.

In its original concept, the job was designated as a supervisory position, "coordinator of volunteers," with a price tag of $52,000 a year, said schools spokesman Donald R. Morrison. This time, it is listed as an "administrative assistant" position with an annual salary of $30,000 to $40,000.

"We need assistance to make people feel welcome in schools," Dr. Keech said. "It is something that is greatly needed. It is a small investment for the return."

The job was not included in the 1994-1995 operating budget because of the school system's need for guidance counselors, Mr. Lisby said. "We need it, but whether we're going to get it or not is the question," he said.

"I think it's an excellent position," said Mr. Fournier, who acknowledges he has concerns about how it will be financed. "If we say, 'Keep it in the budget,' what is its priority? We want to reduce class sizes, have more guidance counselors, fix roofs."

"We've got limited funds," said parent and teacher Pat White of Havre de Grace, who attended Thursday's meeting. "What's going to make the best impact on children? I say it's the classroom teacher. . . . As admirable as it [the job] looks, I'm afraid it is more expense of money that is not reality-based."

But parent Shirley Doud of Jarrettsville said, "With 30,000 to 40,000 students, we need one person out there working for every child in the school system."

Mrs. Rohrbaugh, who has expressed interest in the job, said, "My sense in all the literature and studies done is that the single most-determining factor of a student's success is parent involvement."

Finally, after many go-rounds, people started leaving the meeting, and a count of PTA council members determined that there was no quorum. "Confusion has brought us to this point," said First Vice President Lee Blake of Forest Hill, who was acting as chairwoman.

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