Budget bind jams schools' copy quotas Machines will track number of copies, shut down at limit

Teachers fear loss of lessons

August 30, 1998|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

Irate teachers say county school administrators, locked in a budget dispute with the county administration for much of the summer, have taken penny-pinching to a painful extreme.

It costs slightly less than a penny for each copy made on a school copier, but starting with the first day of school, internal ditto police will monitor the copy machines at all 117 schools and the administration buildings.

Each teacher will have a code, similar to a bank PIN number, to punch into the copier. Devices installed in the copiers will read the number, and the copier will shut down if the teacher or the teacher's department has reached its copy limit.

"We have been cautioned before, but never like this," said Patricia Gronkiewicz, principal at North County High School.

It's not that the top school administrators don't trust teachers, though there have been "isolated incidents" of personal copying, said Nancy Mann, assistant superintendent for instruction.

"This is a budget issue," she said. "This year, we have to watch the budget -- not just the copying budget but the entire budget."

Money is a sensitive topic with the school board. In June, the board cut $9 million out of programs and services because, its members said, the County Council and County Executive John G. Gary did not give them enough to provide the same level of services provided last year.

Two weeks ago, Mann said, Kenneth Lawson, associate superintendent for instruction and student services, formed a committee of teachers and administrators to find ways to save on the $1.5 million copy bill without short-changing students.

Last year, the school system spent $250,000 more than it allocated for copying, according to Gregory V. Nourse, chief financial officer. So, the committee set limits. Teachers will be allowed to make 2,000 copies for the entire year for each of the 74,275 students in the county system.

Angry teachers say these limits confine students to reading mostly boring excerpts from out-of-date textbooks.

"When you teach a lower-level class, you have to work like mad to find good stuff to spark their interest and make them read," said an Annapolis High teacher who asked not to be named. "High-interest stuff for the disenchanted learner does not come in a textbook. Good teaching means hustling to find interesting materials."

Teachers also say it takes a lot of paper to prepare students for the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program tests.

"MSPAP is paper happy," said a teacher at Chesapeake Bay Middle School, who also asked not be named. "There are articles to read, graphs to interpret and answers to write out on work sheets. This is really going to interfere with practicing and preparing for this test."

Principals and teachers say they are looking for ways around the copy bind. They hope to use grant money, petty cash funds or money raised by the PTA to make up the difference. Meanwhile, parent newsletters will be skimpy.

"If I want to send a letter home with each of my 1,600 students, that's one student's total allocation for the year," said Joyce Smith, principal of Annapolis Senior High School.

At North County High School, where there are about 1,850 students, Gronkiewicz had to dole out her 3.7 million copies to departments according to which will need the most. Math and science classes need more than, say, art and physical education classes.

"That might sound like a lot of copies," she said of her allotment. "But it really isn't. This includes everything -- all of instruction, PTA, student government and other groups that want to print out notices or agendas and parent newsletters."

Pub Date: 8/30/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.