Report says Arundel schools are understaffed Elementaries want 175 more support positions

December 17, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Elementary schools in Anne Arundel County are understaffed by nearly 175 positions, not counting classroom teachers, according to a new report by elementary principals.

The jobs are support staff: secretaries, assistant administrators, guidance counselors, reading specialists and technical workers.

"There are some rather gross inequities," said Oak Hill Principal Lawrence Campbell. "We don't feel that we are able to provide all the services that our students need."

The report says the school system needs nine more administrators, 118 secretaries and technical staff, 16.5 reading teachers and 30.5 guidance counselors.

The committee will present its report at tomorrow night's school board meeting in Annapolis.

School board member Michael A. Pace likened the report to a "wish list."

"It is important to know what instructional staff thinks is needed," Pace said. "But it is our job to overlay that with some practicality. I don't think anyone believes there is enough money to give every elementary school what they think they need."

Some complications

Complicating the principals' request are two things: Some classroom teachers do not find counselors and reading specialists worthwhile; and parents clamor for reduced class size, not for more front-office help.

But principals say even the most helpful parent volunteers cannot view confidential records and are not qualified to act as counselors or administrators or reading specialists.

Some schools have part-time help, which sends reading teachers, guidance counselors and others scurrying between two schools.

Many have the equivalent of an office in their cars. Principals wonder whether those employees are as effective as they should be -- and in the case of people learning to be principals, whether they are getting enough supervision and training.

"I have 520 youngsters here," said Rocco Ferretti, Bodkin principal. "I have a part-time administrative trainee that I share with Belvedere Elementary."

Belvedere has 636 students this year. The woman learning to be a principal has more than 1,000 students to deal with. Neither principal can make many demands because of her schedule.

"It is very difficult. I have her Tuesday, Wednesday and every other Friday," Ferretti said. But because of her other responsibilities, "it comes out to about seven days a month."

Elementary school staffing ratios call for an assistant principal once the school has 500 students. Belvedere has 636 students, more than qualifying for an assistant.

Staff differences

There is an extreme difference between staffing levels at middle and high schools, principals say, and at the elementaries,

especially given the rising number of youngsters bringing serious personal and neighborhood problems to school.

For example, Old Mill Middle School South has one principal, two assistant principals, three guidance counselors and five secretaries for its 776 students. High Point Elementary has one principal, one assistant principal, one guidance counselor and three secretaries for 796 children.

The push for more support staff began in 1992, though the need was first recognized in a 1977 report, when principals compiled their first Bridging the Gap information.

But few new positions have been added in the past four years, and principals realize they are likely to see only a handful added each year.

Superintendent Carol S. Parham is developing next year's budget proposal but has not yet drafted a recommendation on how many positions to include.

The school system is trying to increase the number of assistant principals because many principals are eligible to retire, and James Foran, curriculum director, has recommended hiring more reading specialists for elementary schools to alleviate middle school reading problems.

Other concerns

The board also is scheduled to vote on a revised student dress code policy. Last week, students at the Chesapeake Regional Association of Student Councils voted against the proposed policy, citing vagueness and a ban on hats.

But most board members favor the proposed policy, which would ban students from wearing clothing and accessories that show profanity, obscenity and violence; promote the use or abuse of drugs, tobacco or alcohol; may create a health or safety risk; and may disrupt school.

Bare feet and hats, excepting head covering for religious, safety or health reasons, would be barred. And students would have to be covered from upper chest to mid-thigh.

Pub Date: 12/17/96

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