Balto. Co. schools have a lot to answer for

July 29, 2011

Now that the start of the new school year is looming on the not-too-distant horizon, perhaps Baltimore County Superintendent Joe A. Hairston and his staff at Greenwood can answer a few "old business" questions remaining from last year.

On the issue of personnel, how many of the 196 excessed teachers actually know where they will be teaching this time next month? How many will be teaching completely within the area of their certification? Why does Baltimore County need 11 additional high-salary administrative positions, as reported by Liz Bowie in "Schools hire, but teachers are cut" (July 27)? And among those positions, what has Renee Foose done to merit a $5,000 raise ($219,000, up from $214,000) on top of the 25 percent salary increase she already received when BCPS hired her?

On the related issue of class size, are BCPS officials still trying to delude the public into thinking that staffing ratio (20.9) and average class size (29.5) are one and the same thing? We may assume that by the end of July, high school administrators will have substantially completed preparing the schedules for every student they have registered in their schools for 2011-2012. How many courses have they had to cancel? How many of those are AP courses? As the average class size has increased from 26.5 to 29.5, how many classes have they been forced to load with 35-40 students?

As to the ethics and legality of awarding non-bid contracts like Mr. Hairston's deal with AssessTrax, how many other arrangements are out there similar to the roof replacement non-bid procedure that the I-Team reported on WBAL-TV on July 26? How many millions of taxpayer dollars are being wasted so that high-salaried functionaries at BCPS do not have to weigh quality and costs before making decisions?

Additionally, an action that stayed totally under the radar last year was the board's decision to shorten the summer school session from 24 to 20 days, allegedly to cut costs. How could a program accomplish the same instructional goals (either remediation or original credit) in nearly 20 percent less time? Other than teachers' salaries, what have been the actual dollars-and-cents savings to justify such a drastic cut in instructional time?

As the superintendent prepares his annual words of inspiration to ring the bell for another year, let us hope that he will find a way to be forthcoming with honest answers to honest questions that continue to cloud his administration.

George W. Nellies, Towson

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