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Schools moving forward

September 26, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

Washington County Public Schools have put in place some of the recommendations made by a commission established by Gov. Robert Ehrlich to improve education, school officials said.

In its report, the Governor's Commission on Quality Education detailed 30 recommendations after hearing from more than 200 parents, students, school staff and other citizens at seven public hearings in the state. The recommendations include changing the way teachers' salaries and pensions are figured, encouraging parent involvement, and possibly altering the length of the school day or school year.

Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan, who has supported the idea of a career ladder for teachers, said the state and local school systems must continue to look for ways to attract and retain teacher talent.

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"I believe very much that you want to be motivating and encouraging teachers to take on additional responsibilities," Morgan said.

The commission's recommendations include phasing out the uniform salary schedule, which is based on teachers' years of service, and implementing a framework that acknowledges teachers' expertise, effectiveness and the challenges of working at particular schools. Other recommendations dealing with staff include simplifying and expanding the teacher certification process, providing more supports such as mentoring for teachers, and reforming the pension system for educators.

Donna Brightman, chairwoman for the Boonsboro High School Citizens Advisory Council, said Sunday she believes the state should allow more flexibility in the certification of teachers, but she cautioned she believed the commission's recommendations cannot be implemented without the cooperation of teacher associations.

"You're talking about negotiations that will go on forever," Brightman said.

Brightman said she believed much of the commission's report was too "top-down" and bureaucratic.

"Education, just like good government, should be local, and we should have more on-site management," Brightman said.

Brightman said she agreed with a commission recommendation to cut red tape and empower principals.

According to Boyd Michael, executive director of secondary education, the school system is considering adopting a business manager approach that would give principals more time to focus on curriculum and instruction.

The school system has implemented several items detailed in the commission's report, including an emphasis on math and reading recovery programs for struggling students, Michael and Morgan said.

Morgan said she hopes the state will follow through on some of the report's other recommendations.

"Pension, pension, pension. I think this next session of the legislature needs to seriously reform the pension system," Morgan said.

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