Balto. Co. school board reviews rehire measure

Panel may support reform to teacher retirement bill

General Assembly

February 27, 2004|By Jonathan D. Rockoff | Jonathan D. Rockoff,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County's school board, which has backed a bill that would retain without changes the law allowing schools to rehire retired teachers, may support a reform measure after reviewing amendments added yesterday.

Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, who is sponsoring one of three bills designed to reform the program, introduced amendments yesterday that would limit proposed changes to retired teachers who are rehired after July 1. Other amendments involved wording in the bill.

James R. Sasiadek, county school board president, said he and his colleagues would review the changes and decide whether they will support the measure. But he added, "My personal preference is to go the other way."

At issue is a 4-year-old law enabling retired teachers to return to work for full pay without losing any of their monthly pensions. The goal was to put veteran teachers of math, special education and other critical subjects into low-performing schools.

An investigation by The Sun in December found that most of Baltimore County's rehired teachers are working in high-performing schools, and that most are teaching art, music, physical education and other subjects not deemed critical by the state. In one case, Randallstown High listed a rehired math teacher as an administrator who devises students' schedules. That administrator was not certified to teach math. County school board members have insisted the district didn't do anything wrong.

Although Superintendent Joe A. Hairston pledged to conduct an audit in December, that review is not done. Sasiadek said the school system only recently hired a director of personnel to conduct the examination.

Noting the news reports, Hollinger, a Pikesville Democrat who is chairwoman of the Senate's education committee, presented her reform bill to a Senate subcommittee yesterday.

The bill would restrict rehirings to teachers who work in struggling schools or teach critical subjects, such as math, science and special education.

"To preserve the spirit in which the law was created, we must further specify the conditions under which teachers may be rehired," she told the subcommittee.

In a letter of support, Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. "strongly" backed the bill as a way "to ensure that highly experienced educators can be rehired to teach critical subjects and work in schools where they are most needed."

Some parents and community leaders are angry that the school board last month backed one of two bills that would leave the program as it is. The rehiring law expires in June unless renewed by the legislature.

"The intent of that entire legislation was to help the struggling schools, and boards and superintendents have to realize we have to direct resources where they're needed," said Ella White Campbell, a community activist from Randallstown.

"You really have to look at the personalities and situations case by case," said Sasiadek, who is to meet with the county's Annapolis delegation today.

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