If the raw numbers told the whole story, Howard County would be just about on target in terms of the number of high-paid professionals it has working in its school system. A survey by The Sun found that Howard ranked third among Baltimore metro school systems in the number of employees earning $60,000 or more. Howard County had 4.9 such employees per 1,000 students, below the levels in both Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties.
That ranking alone would suggest that the area's most affluent county is on the right track. More frugal than its larger sister counties, Howard appears to be doing more with less. The county's strong showing on standardized tests further supports the argument that Howard has found just the right employment mix.
Of course, these numbers don't paint the entire picture. A larger survey, delving into other issues, would be necessary for that. Howard's true ranking cannot be known so much by analyzing how many employees earn more than $60,000 but by how essential those employees are.
Ascertaining what positions are necessary needs to be a high priority for officials if the school system is to meet the economic demands confronting it today. This needs to be done in a systemic fashion by those employed in the system and with the assistance of the Board of Education.
It cannot be done by the County Council, which attempted to interfere in school system operations earlier this year by eliminating the position of high school director from the budget. County officials did this to send a political message to the board. Unfortunately, they were operating largely in a vacuum, with little real knowledge of the importance of a high school director. School officials did the right thing by promptly restoring funds to keep the position.
Now, however, board members must begin the task of assuring the community that its resources are being wisely spent. They cannot simply rest on laurels won as the result of high-achieving students who have affluent, well-educated parents.
Superintendent Michael E. Hickey has promised to reorganize the administrative staff, hinting that some jobs may be eliminated. We are less concerned about how many positions are lost than we are about employing only those professionals who are required to do the job.