October 24, 2007

Schools report progress in qualified teachers

The Baltimore County school system has, during the past five years, steadily increased its corps of "highly qualified" teachers and bolstered its hiring of minorities for its classrooms, according to a report released during last night's school board meeting.

But some school board members expressed concern about the percentage of non-highly qualified teachers at schools in the northwest and southwest areas, which include schools such as Woodlawn High and New Town High.

In the northwest area, 8.2 percent of teachers are not highly qualified. That figure is 6 percent in the southwest. That compares with 3 percent in the central area, which has a total 1,166 teachers, 38 of whom are not highly qualified.

"These are the areas where we have struggling schools," said board member Rodger Janssen.

Among the county's teachers in core subject areas, such as English, math and reading, nearly 95 percent are highly qualified, up from 83.5 percent during the 2003-2004 school year, officials said. The federal No Child Left Behind law defines highly qualified teachers as those who have a bachelor's degree, full state certification or licensure and can prove they know each subject they teach.

Similarly, the percentage of core subjects being taught by highly qualified teachers rose to 87.5 percent this year from 62.5 percent during the 2003-2004 school year.

The percentage of newly hired minority teachers rose to 22.2 percent this year, up from 15.7 percent during the 2002-2003 school year. School officials attribute the increase to expanded recruitment that included nearly two dozen predominantly black colleges.

According to the school system's report, 99.1 percent of teachers at "high-poverty" elementary schools are highly qualified, compared with 96.4 percent of teachers at "low-poverty" elementary schools. On the secondary level, the rate is nearly identical, with 91.4 percent of teachers at low-poverty schools being highly qualified, compared with 91.5 percent of teachers at high-poverty schools.

Gina Davis


Killer's confession can be aired

The public will be allowed to copy and broadcast video and audio recordings of a convicted killer's graphic confession to police, under a decision issued by a Baltimore County judge yesterday.

In response to a lawsuit filed by WBAL-TV, Baltimore County Circuit Judge Mickey J. Norman ruled that the public - including the news media - should be allowed to copy the recordings, which were played in court during John Gaumer's trial in May. He has filed an appeal.

Gaumer was found guilty of first-degree murder in the December 2005 death of Josie P. Brown, 27, a woman he met on MySpace.com. Norman ruled that the public has a "legitimate interest" in ensuring that "judicial and criminal systems are fair and effective."

Prosecutors had asked that the confession, in which Gaumer describes how he sexually assaulted, mutilated and killed Brown, not be copied by the media out of concern for the victim's family. Norman acknowledged the family's concerns, but wrote that they could avoid watching or listening to broadcasts of the confession.

Julie Scharper


Fire destroys Greenwood Ave. house

A fire destroyed a house in Fullerton yesterday, Baltimore County fire officials said. Firefighters answering an alarm about 1:45 p.m. in the 100 block of Greenwood Ave. found the two-story frame structure engulfed in flames. The fire was under control shortly after 3 p.m., said Donna Welsh, a Fire Department spokeswoman. No one was injured, officials said. An investigation was continuing.


Meeting on high-rise expansion

A public meeting on a proposal to build two new wings onto the Virginia Towers high-rise in Towson is scheduled for tonight. The plan by Virginia Towers LLC includes 328 apartments, 20,000 square feet of retail space and 6,340 square feet of office space in the new wings to be built next to the existing 15-story high-rise at Virginia and Pennsylvania avenues, according to county officials.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Towson library, 320 York Road.

Information: 410-887-3321.

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