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Board of Ed. may shuffle school's staff

May 02, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY, MD. - With a state takeover a possibility, Eastern Elementary School's approximately 50 teachers, administrators and instructional assistants might not be returning to the school next year, according to the Washington County Board of Education.

School officials have asked that the employees re-apply if they would like to remain at the school for the 2003-2004 school year.

The employees will be placed in other jobs throughout the school system if they are not rehired at Eastern, School Board Public Information Officer Carol Mowen said Thursday.

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The School Board and the Washington County Teachers' Association are negotiating the matter, Mowen said.

"These teachers have not been given notice of unemployment," Mowen said. "These teachers have not been fired. It's more of a shift than it is a pink slip situation."

School officials said they plan to put more demands on the instructional personnel they hire at Eastern, because the school has failed to meet state standards for two consecutive years. The restructured positions must be advertised as required by state law.

The School Board will find out in August if Eastern is below state standards for a third year, Mowen said. The standards are based on state test scores and attendance rates.

If a public school fails to meet state standards for five years, it may be considered for a state takeover, or reconstitution, State Education Spokesman Bill Reinhard said.

"Eastern is close to being reconstituted by the state. That's the overriding concern at that particular school," Teachers' Association President Claude Sasse said Wednesday night.

Some of the extra duties placed on Eastern's instructional personnel next year might include mandatory after-school tutoring, staying in school for 30 additional minutes a day and completing staff development programs, Mowen said.

In an attempt to lure educators to the revamped positions, Patricia Abernethy, the School Board's deputy superintendent for instruction, said Wednesday the board was considering offering them an additional $5,000 a year, depending on negotiations with the Teachers' Association.

"It's not like a reward," Mowen said. "It's like we're going to expect them to do more."

Abernethy said she expected most of the personnel to reapply in order to stay at the school.

Sasse said Thursday some teachers might take advantage of the School Board's option of going elsewhere in the school system.

"Some teachers had asked to be removed from that school, and that might be good for the school and good for the teachers," Sasse said.

Mowen called the School Board's plans a proactive way to boost student achievement.

"Certainly we would want to avoid losing local control, but ultimately, we're in this for the students ... we're in this for the kids," Mowen said.

Under the federal "No Child Left Behind" bill, a school must show two consecutive years of improving scores and attendance rates in order to be removed from the additional accountability measures that Eastern is facing.

Hancock Elementary School also has had declining test scores, but employees there do not face a job restructuring. Mowen said that while the test scores have declined, they have remained higher than Eastern's.

As required by law, Eastern and Hancock students for the last two years had the option of transferring to better performing schools.

The School Board also plans to restructure about 20 positions at Antietam Academy, which formerly was called the Alternative Learning Center. Instructional personnel there also would have to reapply to remain at the academy.

As with Eastern, school officials also have proposed adding 30 minutes to the school days and offering personnel who would like to work there an additional $5,000 a year.

Staff writer Pepper Ballard contributed to this story.

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