Teachers seek the suburbs

July 10, 1995|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,Sun Staff Writer

Thousands of prospective teachers are besieging Baltimore's suburban school systems for jobs this summer, submitting applications in record numbers to some counties.

Applicants outnumber job openings by 10- , 20- and even 30-to-1 in some counties, leaving personnel offices scrambling to keep up with the paperwork.

But what appears to be a glut of prospective teachers in the suburbs isn't the whole picture, as many applicants in one county are the same ones seeking jobs with the other school systems. And while some disciplines are attracting hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants, far fewer educators are available in other subjects.

Nevertheless, with only about 1,400 projected job openings in Baltimore's five surrounding suburbs, some prospective teachers are sure to be left jobless come fall.

"I'm just sitting here now biting my nails," said Michelle Edwards, 24, of Hillendale. The Towson State University graduate's top choice would be to teach at an elementary school in Baltimore County, but she has applications in at almost every area suburban system.

"I've redone my resume, I've made sure the school systems have evaluations, and I've handed in my official transcripts," she said. "With so few jobs and so many people applying, I'm taking whatever I can get."

Because the suburbs offer higher salaries and better resources and working conditions than the city and rural school systems, more teachers looking for jobs are applying exclusively to Baltimore's surrounding counties.

For example, Howard County, which expects to hire 200 to 250 teachers next fall, has 5,000 applications on file -- more than twice the total number of teachers employed by the system. About 3,000 people have applied for Harford County's 90 projected openings.

And in Carroll County, which has the fewest number of applications of any suburban system, the 2,000 applicants still outnumber the projected job openings by 20-to-1.

"We're busier than we've ever been this time of year," said Albert W. Tucci, a supervisor in Howard County's personnel office.

"Our challenge . . . is to be thorough, because we can't ignore applications, and we don't just hire the first 10 qualified people through the door."

Meanwhile, just 1,100 people are seeking to fill more than 300 projected openings in Baltimore.

"We seem not to get as many applications," acknowledged Kenneth M. Kuyawa, the city schools' interim director of the office of employment and placement.

"Part of it has to do with the beginning salary, which is lower than in the counties, and part of it has to do with the reluctance of some teachers to work in urban schools."

Unlike the suburbs, the city schools rely on such programs as Teach for America to fill about a fifth of their open positions.

One applicant who has decided to make the commitment to the city is Towson State graduate Huyen Truong, 21, of North Baltimore.

"In the county you do see yourself making a difference. But in the city, sometimes the school is a home for a lot of the kids and the teacher is sometimes their only positive role model," said Ms. Truong, who will teach next year at John Ruhrah Elementary School in Canton.

"It did take me a while to decide to accept the job, because I know it isn't going to be easy, so I can understand all of my friends who have said they'll teach anywhere but the city."

Of course, not every field of teaching is equally competitive.

While large surpluses exist in early childhood and elementary education, biology and social studies, other subjects have fewer applicants, including special education, physics, advanced high school math and Spanish, according to personnel directors and a state Department of Education report.

"We try to let our students know early on what subject areas

tend to be in greater demand by the school systems," said William L. Gray, the director of University of Maryland Baltimore County's undergraduate program in education.

Such difficult competition in elementary education makes Towson State graduate Cheryl Shiflett one of the more fortunate applicants. The 24-year-old Dundalk resident already has a job lined up for the fall to teach second grade at Dundalk Elementary School.

"This was my dream, and it happened. I'm going to be working in the school I attended," Ms. Shiflett said. "I'm so lucky to have heard so soon."

In those subject areas where there are fewer applicants, many school systems -- including the suburban ones -- will be scrambling to fill positions as the summer progresses.

"Toward the latter part of the summer, it gets more difficult to find qualified people who are not working yet," Dr. Tucci said.

In the end, it remains unclear how many prospective educators will remain unemployed when the schools open in the fall.

For example, area personnel directors know that the bulk of the applications to county school systems come from the same few thousand people, about 70 percent of whom are in their first year out of college.

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