Hairston addresses legislators' questions

The county delegation asks him about facilities policy, teachers cuts

May 31, 2011|By Mary Gail Hare, The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore County schools Superintendent Joe A. Hairston told legislators that the district may have been too rigid in enforcing a policy on use of school facilities that led to some fundraisers being canceled, one of numerous topics he addressed during a meeting Tuesday.

Hairston described the meeting held at school headquarters in Towson, scheduled at the county delegation's request, "a courtesy and a good-faith effort to reaffirm our transparency." The school system has come under fire recently from legislators and parents for a perceived lack of openness.

Legislators, who submitted queries to Hairston before the meeting, which stemmed from constituents' concerns, asked about crowding in elementary schools, particularly along the York Road corridor, and reiterated parents' concerns about the elimination of nearly 200 teaching positions and what many see as a top-heavy administration.

Among the issues discussed was the recent enforcement of the longstanding facilities policy that had put numerous fairs and PTA fundraisers in jeopardy. Hairston pointed out that the policy is now being revised and predicted a more flexible option would result, possibly as soon as next month. But several parents in the audience said their requests for permits to hold flea markets and craft fairs in the fall have been denied.

Education officials also said they are taking steps to address school crowding, including building an addition to Hampton Elementary in Towson.

In addition, lawmakers and parents have voiced concerns about the elimination of 196 teaching positions through attrition. The move comes as the school system recently hired an administrator at a salary of $214,000 a year.

Sen. James Brochin asked, "Did you look at these changes position by position?" He said he has heard mounting criticism from parents and students who anticipated classes that will not available in their high schools next year because of the transfers.

School officials stressed that while some teachers will transfer, there will be no layoffs and they assured legislators that every administrative position comes under review.

"There has been a great deal of misinterpretation about this issue," Hairston said.

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