Schools rebut critics

July 02, 1995|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

For critics who accuse Carroll County Schools of a top-heavy administration and wasteful spending, school officials now have a counter-attack with hard numbers.

The county ranks No. 2 among 24 school districts in Maryland in the proportion of employees who are teachers, according to an analysis of State Department of Education figures.

Carroll ranks 14th in the proportion of school officials who are administrators -- from directors to assistant principals -- and 18th in the proportion of assistant superintendents or superintendents.

"At first blush, this looks to be in conflict with what we've been saying, that our per-pupil expenditure [and teacher-pupil ratio] are among the poorest in the state," said Gary Dunkleberger, assistant superintendent for instruction.

Carroll ranks 17th in per-pupil spending -- even Baltimore spends more -- and 20th in teacher-pupil ratio, according to the analysis.

"We have fewer staff members than other districts to serve the needs of kids," Dr. Dunkleberger said. "However, what this data says is we have done a better job of putting a greater proportion of those staff members in front of kids."

In the 1993-1994 school year, Carroll spent $5,315 per student, $633 less than the state average.

By contrast, Montgomery County ranks highest in per-pupil spending at $7,544, but ranks 21st out of 24 in the proportion of its school staff who are teachers. Somerset County, one of the poorest counties in Maryland, also ranks near the bottom for teacher staffing.

"This doesn't deal with how many dollars you have to spend, but how you spend it," Dr. Dunkleberger said.

"We've made conscious decisions along the way to have as much of our resources as close to the students as possible. But how did I feel when I saw this? I was absolutely shocked.

"I've dealt with these numbers so long," he said, holding up the county's low rankings in money and teachers per student, "and the way Steve Guthrie looked at this was a different way than I had," he said.

"I was surprised myself that we came out second," said Mr. Guthrie, the school personnel specialist who compiled the rankings based on a report that the state has distributed every year.

William Hyde, assistant superintendent for administration, gave the report to Mr. Guthrie in May and asked him to analyze it.

The state report provides the number of total employees in each district, a breakout for six categories and the number of employees each school system has in those categories.

Mr. Guthrie calculated the percentage of employees in each area, then ranked them.

Carroll County Public Schools, the largest employer in the county, has the equivalent of 2,397.5 full-time employees. (The actual number of people is higher because some work part time.)

Of those positions, 1,511.3 -- 63 percent -- are held by teachers and other professional instructional staff such as guidance counselors and librarians.

Queen Anne's County ranked No. 1 in the state, with teachers making up 63.1 percent of the school staff. Somerset County ranked last, with 54.1 percent.

The Carroll school budget for fiscal 1996 will be $134,388,016, a 3 percent increase over that of the fiscal year that ended Friday. Education officials requested an increase in county money of $9.2 million, but received only $2.2 million more, along with about $1.7 million more in state and federal money.

At school budget hearings before the Board of Education and County Commissioners, parents and teachers often attend to ask for additions to the budget. Occasionally, critics chastise the schools for their spending. The school budget accounts for 53 percent of the county's operating budget.

Dr. Dunkleberger and Mr. Guthrie said Carroll's standing in teach

er staffing gratified them, after a budget hearing season in which critics said the schools have a top-heavy administration.

William Bowen of Westminster, a retired Baltimore social studies teacher who has been among the critics, said he was not impressed with Mr. Guthrie's calculations, even though they were based on state figures.

"I'm skeptical, because the state only has figures supplied by the Carroll County Board of Education," Mr. Bowen said. "In the past, the county did not supply accurate figures pertaining to the superintendent's salary."

Mr. Bowen's complaints have focused on the salaries of top administrators.

Mr. Guthrie's rankings do not address the proportion of the budget allocated to each category, only the proportion of employees.

And, while the county looks good in the teacher ranking, the significance of the other rankings is less clear.

Carroll ranks 19th among Maryland subdivisions in the proportion of employees who are instructional assistants and 18th in the proportion of clerical workers.

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