Arundel school board hears concerns on proposed budget

New middle school, more guidance counselors on public's wish list

February 03, 2000|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Guidance counselors, a new Marley Middle School and school building repairs were on the wish lists of parents, teachers and students at a hearing last night on Superintendent Carol S. Parham's proposed $549 million budget.

The first opportunity for the public to tell the school board what it thinks of the proposed spending plan for next year drew approximately 200 people to the Glen Burnie High School auditorium.

The proposed budget, which Parham presented to the board last month, seeks higher salaries for entry-level teachers and signing bonuses for teachers in hard-to-fill areas, such as math, science and special education.

Parham's request is nearly 10 percent higher than last year's $500 million budget, and it includes a $42 million increase in county money.

Last night, about 50 people expressed support for a new Marley Middle School, instead of a renovation project. Parham's $104 million proposed capital budget includes a $1.7 million feasibility study to determine whether Marley Middle should be renovated or replaced.

Backers of a new school said that 47-year-old Marley Middle has no air conditioning, too few classrooms and leaking roofs.

"The condition of the building doesn't allow students to accelerate their achievement or me to accelerate my instruction," said Al Steen, a teacher at Marley Middle for 36 years.

Because of a classroom shortage, Steen told the board, he has to "float" between three classrooms and push his materials around on a cart.

Will Sanford, an eighth-grader at Marley Middle, said the leaky cafeteria roof prompted his friend to bring a bucket to school to help catch water.

Several people at the hearing urged the board to fund the 13 new guidance-counselor and school-psychologist positions included in the superintendent's proposed budget.

Ashley Pearson, a Chesapeake High School 10th-grader, read a letter she had written to her school psychologist, telling him how he had helped her through the years. She said he taught her that "being angry with my past will never get me anywhere with my future," and that "it is OK to fail as long as you try your best."

When Ashley asked the audience to stand if they supported more school psychologists, the crowd rose to its feet and applauded.

Bryan Senter, chairman of the Citizen Advisory Council for Overbrook Elementary School, asked for additional funding to eliminate the maintenance backlog in county schools.

"We have outstanding work orders dating back to 1989," he said.

County Councilwoman Pamela G. Beidle asked the board not to lose its focus on the expansion project to ease crowding at North County High School. The project is estimated at $21 million, nearly $10 million over projections. Some board members expressed anger at the discrepancy at yesterday's regular board meeting.

"I don't want this to become a divisive issue," Beidle said. "I ask you to please work with us cooperatively. We're 200 students over capacity."

Parham's spending plan also includes money to continue systemwide computer upgrades and strengthen school security. Her proposal includes 55 teachers to keep pace with enrollment growth, 10 teachers to continue reducing first-grade classes to 20 pupils, and 19 reading teachers -- one for each middle school.

A second hearing on the school budget is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at board headquarters, 2644 Riva Road in Annapolis.

The board will vote on Parham's proposal at its Feb. 16 meeting and send it to County Executive Janet S. Owens.

Owens will send her spending plan to the County Council, which will adopt a budget by the end of May.

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