School board expands request to Gary for more teachers After getting nod for 9, panel decides to ask for 20

November 07, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

After getting County Executive John G. Gary's blessing to hire nine teachers to improve pupil-teacher ratios, the school board has more than doubled its request.

Board members voted unanimously yesterday to ask Gary for the authority to hire 20 teachers, with the county picking up the cost of nine. Their action followed a recommendation by Superintendent Carol S. Parham, who said crowded elementary classes are hurting instruction.

There are 115 elementary classes with 30 or more students plus 45 classes of combined grades. Recommended staffing ratios call for class sizes of between 22 and 28 children.

Under Parham's proposal, Arnold, Brooklyn Park, Davidsonville, Freetown, Georgetown East, Glen Burnie Park, Jacobsville, Jessup, Maryland City, Meade Heights, Manor View, Point Pleasant, Richard Henry Lee, Rippling Woods, Severn, Van Bokkelen, Waugh Chapel and West Annapolis Elementary schools would each get one more teacher. Hilltop Elementary in Ferndale would get two.

Gary is reluctant to release up to $320,000 in a contingency account for any teachers and wants the school board to dip into its $4.5 million surplus from last year.

"They've got the money," Gary said in an interview last weekend. "What they are saying is 'We want to do it on somebody else's check.' "

He proposed legislation at the County Council meeting Monday that would authorize the school system to use $200,000 of its surplus to hire new teachers for the rest of the school year. The County Council is scheduled to discuss and vote on the bill Dec. 2.

But the board wants to apply much of last year's savings to expected needs in fiscal 1998 and is renewing its request for county help. That prompted county officials to repeat their suggestion.

"If there is $4 million there, let's put it to good use," said Gary's spokeswoman Lisa I. Ritter, adding that the executive would meet soon with school officials.

No matter who foots the bill, they apparently will pay more than originally forecast.

Gregory V. Nourse, school finance director, said that neither the contingency account nor Gary's proposal contains money for benefits -- about $10,000 for a teacher making $32,000.

The hiring debate started in May. After school and county officials disagreed over new student enrollment projections, the County Council set aside $320,000 in a contingency fund for up to 10 teachers.

The number of new students -- 982 -- is not in dispute any more. But county budget officials believe more teachers are not needed unless the number exceeds 1,000; school officials say 800. School officials also said they didn't have enough teachers last year.

Board members say their proposal to have the county pay for nine and not 20 teachers shows willingness to work with Gary.

If the County Council approves the hiring, school officials will try to get the teachers in the classroom by early December, said Nancy Mann, director of instruction. She did not think mid-year changes of teachers would be disruptive to students.

Getting the teachers is of greater importance to many parents than the financial details, since both the school and county government budgets are funded mostly through local taxes.

"I would be for that from either pocket," said West Annapolis Elementary parent Charlotte Pennington.

Pub Date: 11/07/96

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