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School budget takes hits at public hearing

February 08, 2000

Rose WoodBy BRUCE HAMILTON / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




Results of a 10-day telephone survey showed overwhelming support for the Washington County Board of Education's $119-million budget proposal, President Paul Bailey said Tuesday.

Some 1,938 residents responded to the poll and 87 percent indicated education should be a top priority in the county's budget. But most of the 12 residents who spoke at a public hearing Tuesday night criticized the School Board's spending plan.

Several bus contractors said they need a pay raise, one parent asked for more staff at Marshall Street School and two people protested the possible loss of two teachers at South Hagerstown High School.

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Rose Wood spoke out about the need for more advanced programs such as Project Challenge. "Parents are concerned about the lack of specialized curriculum for gifted students," she said.

The head of a union representing school support personnel said one $50,000 line item is premature. The amount is earmarked to implement a job reclassification study the School Board has not approved.

The money represents the cost to upgrade some salary grades as recommended by consultant Hendricks and Associates. "We believe the study lacks validity," said ESP Local No. 1 President Bonnie Parks.

"In essence, you are being asked to put the cart before the horse."

Tammy Shaffer, Lisa Hoffman and Carol Yeakle urged the board to increase bus driver contractor pay. Drivers employed directly by the School Board get routine raises for increased transportation costs but contractors do not, they said.

"We feel we are subsidizing school transportation," said Shaffer. Begging for money each year is demoralizing, she said. "At this rate, you will begin to see contractors dropping out."

"We cannot continue on this path," Hoffman said.

Jim Laird and Pam Newhouse said South High cannot afford to lose two teachers. Newhouse said the students with low socio-economic status need smaller classes and additional mentoring. The school has high dropout and low attendance rates, she said.

Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett Jr. said after the meeting that staff could be reduced because of declining enrollment. Schools routinely lose teachers to other schools when student populations change.

But Bartlett said no cuts are certain yet. "At this stage in time, it's just a planning number," he said.

One of the 12 speakers praised the budget for raising teacher pay. "They are the most important resource," said James Haught. "Teachers affect eternity. Everyone else is just a support person."

Terry Fowler said Marshall Street needs smaller classes, more space and staff, including teachers, aides and nurses. Special needs children require triple the care that other children receive, she said.

The School Board will adopt any changes to its budget at a business meeting Feb. 15 and present the final proposal to the County Commissioners at Hagerstown Community College's Kepler Theater Feb. 28.

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