Annapolis High staff may see 12-month schedule

January 31, 2007|By Ruma Kumar | Ruma Kumar,Sun reporter

Math teacher Jennifer Manning was on the fence about reapplying for her job at Annapolis High School.

But no more.

Manning says she knew she didn't want to return when she heard top Anne Arundel County school officials tell staff yesterday that the school will likely switch to a 12-month schedule starting this summer - a move that will cost the system $1.8 million.

Though the 12-month schedule still needs school board approval, teachers said they aren't happy about the prospect of working two more months than their peers at other schools. Top school leaders also told Annapolis High's teachers and administrators they would be required to spend July and August in intensive professional development workshops.

"I know now I don't want to come back," said Manning, who has taught at Annapolis High for 16 years and whose two children graduated from the school.

Yesterday's announcement came six days after Anne Arundel County schools Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell declared all 193 positions at the school vacant. The school - which had failed to meet federal and state graduation-rate targets and reading benchmarks for low-income students four years in a row - was facing possible state takeover next year, Maxwell said.

Along with a possible year-round schedule, the system will offer staff who choose to work at the school an extra $350 to $5,000 in yearly sign-up and performance bonuses. The stipends vary in size depending on the job.

Supporters of merit pay say it helps struggling schools attract talented educators and gives teachers a reason to work with some of the most challenging students in some of the most demanding environments. But critics say teacher incentive pay creates a hostile work environment in schools and sometimes fuels cheating among educators who bend the rules to reach the targets necessary for extra pay.

Among other changes at Annapolis High, officials also told the staff that those who choose to work at the school have to sign an agreement to stay for three years, much to the chagrin of teachers who said the requirement unnecessarily limits their freedom to move elsewhere within the system.

Teachers said the three-year commitment was unfair because they're being asked to reapply for jobs before they know what will be expected of them.

Maxwell said he wants the commitment to discourage turnover. Turnover, he said, would undermine the reform he wants to carry out at the school.

"This is not about cleaning house," he said. "This is about looking at the school and realizing that what has been going on at the school isn't working for every child. We're looking to hold on to the successes that are there but correct the deficiencies that are there, as well."

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