Influx Of New Teachers Slows For The New Year

Economy, Reduction Of Growth In County Seen As Reasons For Small Rate Of Turnover

August 30, 2009|By John-John Williams IV | John-John Williams IV,

Howard County schools Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin and other top-ranking school system officials stood behind the steaming-hot glass partition in Reservoir High School's cafeteria for the annual duty of serving up lunch to new teachers.

But this year there were noticeably fewer teachers to serve - 200 in fact.

"This is the smallest number of new teachers we've hired in recent memory," Cousin said as he heaped a large spoonful of broccoli onto a plate. "Not too long ago we had 400 new teachers. Now we have fewer teachers leaving and we have a lot of teachers returning."

Of the 200 new teachers hired for this school year, which starts tomorrow, 36 are filling new positions. The rest will fill vacancies created by resignations or retirements. About 25 percent of the new-hires are graduates of the school system.

"We're not having the problem filling positions this year," said school system spokeswoman Patti Caplan. "It may be the economy. It's a pretty solid cause to why we're not hiring as many."

Cousin attributed the reduction in new teachers to a variety of factors, including the economy, the completion last year of phasing in of full-day kindergarten, a reduction of growth in the county, and not opening up a new school this year.

"I really think it is a reflection of the economy," said board member Patricia Gordon, who was also serving food to the new-hires during the recent orientation. "Teaching positions are at a premium."

Gordon thinks it is good thing that there are fewer new teachers.

"We have retained a cadre of veteran teachers," she said.

The average age of Howard County's teachers is 41 with 12.4 years of teaching experience. Sixty-one percent of the teachers in the school system have at least a master's degree.

Overall, 4,563 teachers will be employed to work at the school system's 72 schools this year. The school system expects an enrollment of 49,138 students this year, which is an increase of 250 from last August.

Although there are no new schools opening this year, there are a number of construction and renovation projects that have been completed just in time for the start of school.

During the summer, the school system completed renovation projects at Glenelg High, and Elkridge, Clemens Crossing and Waterloo elementary schools. Additions were also completed at Bellows Spring, Deep Run, Forest Ridge, Hollifield Station and St. John's Lane elementary schools.

The school system also completed the final phase of construction projects related to full-day kindergarten. For the past six years, the school system has added 57 classrooms as a result of the full-day kindergarten mandate, according to school system officials.

Howard County students, parents and teachers should see few changes, if any, to their day-to-day school lives due to any budgetary problems.

Cousin and the Howard County Board of Education vowed to "protect the classroom" during the operating and capital budget process.

The one area where financial constraints will be most apparent is athletics.

Mike Williams, the school system's coordinator of athletics, plans to eliminate some scrimmages and limit game traveling to inside the county.

Ann DeLacy, president of the Howard County Education Association, said it is too early to determine whether or not the recession will affect teachers.

"It hasn't hit them yet," DeLacy said. "We haven't heard anything."

DeLacy said she has talked to a number of teachers while visiting 10 schools in the past month.

"People are pretty content," DeLacy said.

"We would be the first ones they would complain to," said DeLacy, whose union represents teachers and various support staff in the school system.

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