Education brass is heading back to class Harford plan requires administrators to teach

February 03, 1997|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Bonnie Battersby will have to forgive Harford County Schools Superintendent Jeffrey N. Grotsky for not following her second-grade lesson plan.

"I left a note for her explaining that I didn't get to some things -- like the science lesson," said Grotsky, a former special education teacher, who filled in for Battersby at Edgewood Elementary School one day last week. "Substitutes have to be flexible."

Grotsky's classroom duty was part of the county's first-in-the-state program that will require 57 Harford school administrators and supervisors -- all certified teachers -- to spend one day each month in the classroom.

The program, which officially starts today, will use central office bureaucrats to substitute for teachers who need time off for training, medical appointments and other reasons.

While other school systems have in the past used administrators as substitutes during budget crises, Harford's plan is the first to require routine duty to keep administrators in touch with the classroom.

"I think it's good for everyone to be reminded what it's all about, and that's the children," said Jackie Haas, Edgewood's principal. "It's always very exciting to know you can still teach and relate to the kids."

The program -- which, as a fringe benefit, could save $16,500 in substitutes' pay this year -- is similar to one Grotsky began when he was superintendent in Grand Rapids, Mich.

"It will give people the opportunity to get back in the classroom," said schools spokesman Donald R. Morrison, who will teach social studies at Joppatowne High School this month, his first time teaching since 1978. "Some of them are master teachers who left teaching to go into administration. They have a lot to offer the kids."

Terry Weaver, president of Harford County Education Association, said the response to the program by teachers has been overwhelmingly positive.

"A common complaint among teachers has been that the higher level the administrator obtains, the less likely they are to know what's going on in the classrooms," said Weaver, whose association has 1,500 teacher members. "This program will help with that."

Last week, to get the program off to a high-profile start, Grotsky stepped into Battersby's well-lighted, well-stocked classroom, the pockets of his trench coat filled with books and a yo-yo.

Yo-yo tricks gave way to math problems, reading lessons -- and the usual small dramas of classroom life.

"You forgot your homework? My goodness!" he told one sheepish student.

"This is the smallest pencil in Harford County," he said to another, taking hold of a pencil that had been worn down to the stub.

But holding the attention of two dozen 7- and 8-year-olds is no easy task. When the noise level got a little high during a reading lesson, Grotsky reacted like a seasoned substitute -- and got the same kind of response.

"We're not going to do anything until we have absolute silence," Grotsky told the class. "We're not going to do anything until it's quiet enough for me to hear a pin drop."

Student Taliqua Easter took the comment literally -- and began dropping her pencil on her desk.

Haas, the principal, said the students enjoyed having Grotsky as a substitute. She also commended the program, which she said "shows respect for the demands placed on teachers."

"I think it's good for everyone to be reminded what it's all about, and that's the children," Haas said. "It's always very exciting to know you can still teach and relate to the kids."

And for Grotsky, the program also offered a fringe benefit -- a hug from a student at the beginning of the day.

"I guarantee you that doesn't happen when I come into the office," Grotsky said, laughing. "I think I'm going to start my day off at the schools more often."

Pub Date: 2/03/97

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