Extra month eyed to lure city teachers

Along with more pay, intent is more time for planning, training

11-month contract

Teachers union polls its membership on proposed incentives

February 16, 1999|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

To attract and keep the best instructors, Baltimore school administrators say they want to offer teachers at least one unusual enticement -- an 11-month contract.

Baltimore would be the first school system in Maryland to give teachers an extra month of work and pay -- perhaps a 10 percent boost in their incomes -- and more time for planning and training.

The school system does not intend to increase the number of days that students are required to be in school. But having teachers working for 11 months would give it flexibility to offer summer school to many more students who need extra help and would spare teachers from having to scramble to find summer jobs.

Baltimore Teachers Union President Marietta English said last week that she is surveying teachers to gauge support for the proposal.

"If they are going to pay more, I am sure that some teachers would say, `OK, I don't have to get a summer job,' " English said.

Facing a shortage of qualified applicants that has forced it to hire more than a thousand new instructors without professional teaching credentials in the past 18 months, the Baltimore school system has been looking for ways to keep its teachers and to recruit the best college graduates each spring.

With the city expected to hire about 900 teachers for the fall, Betty Morgan, the city schools' chief academic officer, said last week that she intends to propose a list of incentives to attract certified teachers to the system.

She and other administrators will meet in the next several weeks with leaders of educational foundations, the teachers union, parent and community organizations, and colleges and universities to draw up the proposals.

The plan could die, however, if the teachers union does not agree to accept the extended year during contract negotiations this spring.

Morgan said she would like to give beginning teachers a 12-month contract for their first year so that they have a month of orientation before starting work. New teachers have complained that they have little time to learn the curriculum, familiarize themselves with textbooks and set up their classrooms before school starts.

School officials could ask experienced teachers to do a variety of jobs in the 11th month, said Barry Williams, an area executive officer who oversees the mid-city schools.

Summer work

Experienced teachers could help rewrite the math, reading, science and history curricula, which must be done if the schools are to prepare students for tough high school graduation exams proposed by the state, he said.

Teachers might be asked to teach summer school or to work with other instructors from their school and grade level to prepare lessons they will teach together the next year.

School officials also are considering giving teachers a signing bonus and paying bonuses to teachers in their third and fifth years to encourage them to stay. Other ideas being floated by administrators include a so-called academic village where beginning teachers could live together and a mentor program that would pair experienced teachers with novices.

Morgan said Baltimore has become a farm team for the suburban counties' school districts and that the city must look for ways to retain its best teachers. Many teachers say they leave not for the slight salary increase they might get in the suburbs, but because they do not receive the support and training they need.

Union negotiations ahead

If Morgan's proposals are approved by the school board, they must be negotiated this spring with the union representing the system's 6,800 teachers. The teachers contract expires in June.

English said the union has concerns about the 11-month proposal. For instance, she said, many teachers use the summer to take courses toward a master's degree or to become certified.

Morgan said the school system is working on estimates of how much the 11-month contract would cost, how much the teachers would be paid and how it would affect the budget.

If their pay were increased in proportion to the extra time worked, teachers would see about a 10 percent salary increase. Beginning teachers with a bachelor's degree are paid about $27,000 a year.

Teachers are offered voluntary teacher training courses in the summer. Last summer, the system asked its elementary school teachers to take a week of training in how to teach children reading with the new phonics-based textbooks. They were paid a small stipend, not nearly as much as they would have received in a weekly paycheck.

Pub Date: 2/16/99

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