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Hairston to meet with County Council over school budget

Decision about cutting teaching positions could lead to push for more accountability in school system

May 15, 2011|By Liz Bowie, The Baltimore Sun

The proposed budget, which takes effect July 1, would eliminate 196 teaching positions through attrition. Most of the reductions are in the high schools, which are experiencing about a 10 percent cut in their teaching staffs. Class sizes will be less affected in elementary and middle schools. Because school enrollment is increasing, the school system would need to keep the 196 teachers and hire 55 more to keep class sizes at the same level they are today.

Bost said she believes the school district has overestimated the cost of the teaching positions and that 50 fewer may need to be eliminated than projected.

School officials have said that they use the same process every year and that no Advanced Placement classes have been eliminated. However, they acknowledged that some will have to be offered online in computer labs.

"To try to pass that off as being a real class; it is basically … educational fraud," said Laurie Taylor Mitchell, the parent of a high school student. "What is the objective here? Don't we want kids to be excited and have joy in education? Kids don't get that from online [classes]."

Parents like Mitchell who have been supportive of their children's schools have grown increasingly frustrated with what they see as a failure of the school board and Hairston to engage in discussion on issues they view as critical.

School board President Earnest Hines did not return a message asking for comment.

"These cuts are real and are happening to real families," said Brochin, adding that the school board should understand that some top-notch programs in county high schools will be lost.

The council also is feeling pressure. "We are receiving dozens of emails about this. Clearly it has resonated with people. If there is any way to restore these positions, I would support it," Marks said.

Dozens of high school teachers were told two months ago that they were being "excessed" and would have to transfer to another school where an opening was available, most likely at a middle school. However, Bost said, there is some question about whether there will be enough teachers who retire or leave the middle schools to move all the high school teachers. High school teachers are not certified to work in elementary schools.

The school system says it can still move teachers around at the beginning of the school year. However at that point, Bost said, it will be too late to reinstate courses unless principals are willing to redo student schedules.

Despite their concerns, some parents and public officials are hopeful that the school board and Hairston will take a second look at the budget and cut other areas to fund the teaching positions.

Brochin said Hairston has in the past responded to outcry from parents, by providing air-conditioning at some schools and building the new West Towson Elementary School, which opened in the fall.

"I will say at the end of the day, the superintendent almost always ends up doing the right thing, and I hope that he will get there on this, too," Brochin said.

liz.bowie@baltsun.com

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