FOUR PREDICTIONS for 2000:
There'll be considerable turmoil around the school chiefs in Baltimore City and Montgomery County.
In the city, here we go again. Two years ago, Robert Booker was hired as chief executive officer in large part because of his financial expertise; he was the chief money man of San Diego County, Calif.
But city schools face a budget deficit approaching $30 million, and officials are amending a court-ordered master plan to squeeze out more money. Booker is a quiet and unassuming man at the head of a district many feel needs a 76-trombone parade.
In Montgomery County, Superintendent Jerry Weast is Booker's opposite. He arrived last summer calling himself a "change agent." In short order he reshuffled the central office staff, fired the computer head, asked for $665 million for school improvement and issued a "plan of action" that seeks to solve every problem at once.
Along the way, of course, he's riled important interest groups, of which Montgomery has a multitude.
To save money, Maryland colleges and universities will continue to hire more part-time instructors, but you won't see that reflected in lower tuitions.
There's been a dramatic increase in part-time faculty across the state since 1981, and with all of the public campuses attempting to cut costs, there's no sign of a counter-trend.
Maryland became a majority part-time state last year, with 51 percent of faculty teaching one, two or three courses and receiving no fringe benefits. A university can hire three or four such "adjuncts" at the cost of one full-time professor.
Tuition increases also continue unabated. Campuses get around a self-imposed 4 percent limit on tuition increases by tacking on $1,000 or more in "mandatory fees."
The state will "take over" several failing schools in Baltimore.
It's about time. Despite heroic efforts by Jeffery Grotsky, who oversees the 19 lowest-performing schools, some have been on the "reconstitution-eligible" list for so long that the threat of state action is hollow.
The state Department of Education won't attempt to operate the schools, nor should it. It will contract the job to an outside organization.
Perhaps TesseracT Group Inc., formerly Education Alternatives Inc., should be hired to finish the job it botched in the mid-1990s.
Private colleges and universities will become more "public."
The private campuses love it when the public schools are healthy because their state subsidies are tied to the public colleges' aid formula.
The "Joseph A. Sellinger Program of Aid to Non-Public Institutions" is one of the nation's most generous, handing out $36.6 million this year and $41.1 million next.
That's about $130 of taxpayer subsidy for each "full-time equivalent" private college student, and it doesn't include state aid for construction or federal aid. The Johns Hopkins University gets a little less than half of the Sellinger money.
Good news gone unnoticed about the MSPAP scores
A few findings from the 1999 Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP) that escaped wide notice:
Tiny Garrett County, with only 5,000 students, closed to within a percentage point of the state MSPAP average.
Garrett's third- and fifth-grade reading scores were respectable, and the eighth grade at Swan Meadow School in Oakland had among the highest MSPAP writing scores in Maryland. (Only five students, however, took the test.)
The state doesn't keep performance statistics by religious group, but Garrett, in Maryland's Appalachian panhandle, educates several hundred Amish children. They don't have television at home.
Five Baltimore County middle schools -- Sudbrook Magnet, Dumbarton, Hereford, Ridgely and Cockeysville -- achieved the fifth- through ninth-highest overall scores in Maryland. In light of the generally dismal middle school MSPAP performance, this is welcome news.
Negative connotation not intended for Poly alumni
My comment last week that Polytechnic Institute alumni "stuffed the ballot box" in voting for their beloved principal, Wilmer A. Dehuff, as Maryland educator of the century was not meant to imply unethical behavior.
Rather, I meant only to describe the flood of pro-Dehuff letters, phone calls and e-mail on a daily basis throughout the summer and fall.
Dehuff deserves the honor, and the loyal alumni of Poly and City College are among Baltimore's treasures.
Winter breaks extended in anticipation of Y2K glitch
An estimated 5 to 10 percent of the nation's 15,000 school districts will extend winter vacation next week for fear of Y2K computer glitches.
The schools will be closed from one to three extra days.
A few districts, including Dayton, Ohio, and Albuquerque, N.M., will delay opening for a week.