Residents want more teachers

Schools' Hyde set for presentations on 2000-2001 budget

Parents seek explanations

$184.6 million plan includes funds for 65 teaching positions

January 20, 2000|By David L. Greene | David L. Greene,SUN STAFF

When Carroll schools Superintendent William H. Hyde takes his budget show on the road tonight at the first of several public presentations across the county, he faces a challenge: justifying money spent on anything besides new teachers.

"The message is clear," said Jean Wasmer, president of the Carroll County Council of PTAs. "We want to see more teachers in the classrooms."

Hyde proposed last week a $184.6 million operating budget for 2000-2001, a spending plan that would require the county to bump up school funding by $15 million over this year's allocation. It would mark the biggest increase since 1991.

At 7 p.m. today at Francis Scott Key High School, school officials will outline Hyde's 73-page proposal. A similar meeting will take place Feb. 8 at Liberty High. The public will have a final chance to comment at a meeting at Westminster High on Feb. 24, when the school board will adopt a final proposal and send it to the Board of County Commissioners.

Last year, school officials were forced to slash $4 million from the budget after the county refused to pay $2.8 million of its requested share and $1.2 million in state money didn't materialize.

Amid the barrage of pleas for money this year, perhaps the most vociferous has come from parents demanding more classroom teachers. Hyde's blueprint includes $2.1 million to create about 65 teaching positions, and an additional $542,000 for 20 new instructional positions in special education.

Wasmer said county parents are more desperate to see additional teachers in the system than at any time in recent memory and that the idea of 65 new teaching positions sounds positive.

But parents who attend the budget hearings, Wasmer said, will expect to leave with a clear understanding of any initiatives -- other than adding teachers -- that are to receive dollars. For example, she said, she hopes Hyde and his staff detail why a $142,000 database to maintain student profiles is necessary and why 15 new clerical workers -- at a cost of $275,000 -- are needed.

"To really sell it to the people, they have to say these 15 people will do X, Y and Z and this is how it will affect your kids," Wasmer said.

She said a recent erosion in public confidence -- the school system is being investigated by a grand jury after several construction projects led to lawsuits -- has left parents more skeptical.

"With the amount of respect that's been lost," Wasmer said, "unfortunately, things need to be explained more."

Hyde and his staff also face a loud demand for money from within the administration. In November, all seven high school principals in the county co-signed an unusual letter to the school board, insisting on more dollars for teachers, clerical workers, textbooks and supplies and complaining that Hyde and his staff were spending too much on administrative positions and bureaucratic initiatives.

Nearly 43 percent of the 2000-2001 budget would be spent on instructional salaries and wages, under Hyde's plan. About 8 percent of all money would be allocated for midlevel administration, and 2 percent for top-level administration.

Liberty High Principal Randy Clark said after scanning Hyde's proposal that he was pleased to see, among other allocations, $180,000 for textbooks and supplies at the middle and high schools.

"I don't know how much it will mean for each school once it's spread across the county," Clark said. "But it's certainly a step in the right direction."

Sherri-Le Bream, Westminster High principal, said she too was happy, especially with the 15 proposed clerical positions.

"We really haven't added clerical positions for years," Bream said, adding that those hires would, among other duties, help enter test scores into databases. She said teachers and administrators are often forced to do that under current staffing.

"Things haven't gotten more simple, but more complex, and we need support personnel," Bream said. "Yes, it may not be teaching positions, but it may allow teachers to do what they are supposed to do."

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