County workers may help schools Ruppersberger plan would give employees paid time to assist

'A terrific breakthrough'

December 07, 1998|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County's 7,500 employees would be allowed paid time to volunteer in county public schools, and department heads would be encouraged to adopt a school under a proposal County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger is expected to announce today.

Ruppersberger, who was re-elected to a second four-year term in November, was to announce the plan before about 500 people in his inaugural speech at the Towson Center at Towson University, where he will be sworn in with other newly elected county officials.

Business and school officials say that while school partnerships have been popular for at least 10 years, Ruppersberger's proposal goes further than most because the county would be paying workers for their time in the schools.

They said the effort should encourage businesses and other governments to form similar partnerships.

"I think this is a terrific breakthrough," said June E. Streckfus, executive director of the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education, a group representing more than 100 businesses that was formed six years ago to support education reform in the Baltimore area.

The program would be one of 300 partnerships formed between schools and businesses, church and community groups in the Baltimore area, said Sharon Cooper-Kerr, a spokeswoman for the Greater Baltimore Committee.

Ruppersberger said he will "encourage" each of nearly 20 department heads to adopt a school and will introduce legislation in the next few weeks to allow nonschool employees to volunteer in the schools for a maximum amount of paid time -- possibly two hours a month at their regular salaries.

The cost and exact amount of paid time allowed for volunteer work would depend on how many county workers agree to participate, county officials said.

Boosting volunteerism

Ruppersberger said the proposal is intended to increase school volunteerism among businesses, governments and community groups. Volunteerism often is credited with helping students learn and with boosting test scores.

Statewide, partnerships range from one-on-one tutoring to tTC helping principals become better managers to informational lectures and hands-on projects. Some companies work directly with students, while others send volunteers to the schools to present lectures or head educational projects.

"What we've seen is just an explosion of interest in this kind of thing in the last few years," said Sharon Norman, director of business, community and parent relations for Baltimore County schools.

Norman said the partnerships help schools improve test scores and help ensure that businesses have trained workers. They also help teachers convey the importance of what is being taught, she said.

"The kids always say, 'Why do I have to know this stuff?' But when a business or professional person says how they use what they learned, it helps us make a connection between the abstract and the real world," said Norman, a former English teacher.

Norman said a partnership formed six years ago between Kenwood High School and the Essex business community has improved attendance, test scores and morale among teachers and students.

"Business leaders come in and they stage mock interviews, they give tips on resume writing and maybe let the students shadow them for a day on the job," Norman said.

Grasmick applauds effort

State schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick said through a spokeswoman that she applauded the county government for the program.

"It is an action that shows great leadership, courage and a profound understanding of civic responsibility," she said.

Pub Date: 12/07/98

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