Schools to get a lesson in change

County system to see new superintendent hired this summer

Schools learn of change

May 14, 2006|By ANICA BUTLER | ANICA BUTLER,SUN REPORTER

Major changes are expected in the Anne Arundel County public schools in the coming months.

The biggest one looming over the 74,000-student school system is the selection of a new superintendent. The Board of Education has narrowed the field to three candidates, who are in the process of interviewing with the board, parents and community members.

"The new superintendent will have interesting tasks ahead of him ... keeping our progress on track and building on that," said Tricia Johnson, vice president of the county school board.

The new superintendent will start July 1, taking over from interim Superintendent Nancy M. Mann, a retired county educator. Eric J. Smith resigned in November, months before the board was to consider renewing his five-year contract.

The new superintendent will lead the fifth-largest school system in Maryland and one of the 50 largest in the nation. The county has 119 schools and learning centers, and is one of only three school systems in the state to have charter schools. Anne Arundel is home to seven National Blue Ribbon Schools and 11 Maryland Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence.

Besides getting a new leader, other changes on the horizon include the selection of a new school board member, approval of the school budget, the ratification of a three-year contract with county teachers that will significantly increase their salaries and the completion of a study that could serve as a blueprint for school redistricting.

Paul G. Rudolph, who is completing his second term on the school board, is the only member stepping down this summer. Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. will appoint his replacement. Five county residents are interested in the position.

One of the eight board members is a student, chosen by her peers and confirmed by the governor. In July, Brittany Walker, now a junior at Old Mill High School, will take that post, the only student representative position in the state with full voting rights.

This month, County Executive Janet S. Owens and the County Council will consider the school system's budget.

The Board of Education adopted an $801.7 million spending plan that would fund the tentative agreement with the teachers union, ease workloads and start a high school swimming program. It also includes $2.5 million to reduce class sizes in middle schools and about $146,000 for the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program. The budget also includes money to expand the International Baccalaureate Program to Meade High School next fall. It will be the third high school in the county to offer the rigorous curriculum.

The deal with the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County would give county teachers a 6 percent raise each year of the contract and restructure the teacher salary scale at a cost of about $30 million a year. The increase in starting salaries could move Anne Arundel County to fourth or fifth in a ranking of nine surrounding school systems. It now ranks eighth, according to a survey conducted by the school system.

In the next few months, the school board will hear the results of the Strategic Facilities Utilization Study and Master Plan, which was commissioned last year by the school board for $488,874, and is being conducted by a national management and consulting firm. The result of the study, according to school system officials, will be a long-range plan for accommodating the growth and movement of the county's students.

"This is the first time in recent history that this has been taken on," Johnson said. "It will give us information on where to go from here."

Johnson said that what happens this year with the county's two charter schools also could lead to changes in how the county approves charter applications.

The county's first two charter schools opened last fall. Chesapeake Science Charter School is a math, science and technology-focused school serving about 100 sixth- and seventh-graders in Hanover. The school will grow to three grades next school year.

KIPP Harbor Academy in Edgewater is one of the nationally acclaimed Knowledge Is Power Program schools and serves fifth-graders this year. It has targeted children in subsidized housing in Annapolis.

When the new superintendent begins, he also will have to lead the school system to comply with an agreement signed by Anne Arundel County school officials and community leaders that holds black students to higher achievement goals in an effort to eliminate racial disparity.

Johnson said she's confident that any of the three candidates for superintendent will be up to the task of dealing with all the change.

"It will be an exciting time. With all the changes, we want to keep focus on why we're here - and that's to improve each student's education," she said.

anica.butler@baltsun.com

Anne Arundel high school MSA scores

This table shows the percentage of high school students in Anne Arundel County who met Maryland's High School Assessment standards in core subjects in the past three years.

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