By Aaron Cahall and Cindy Mumby
Three weeks ago, the Harford County Public Schools’ fiscal year 2011 budget picture was bad enough that two percent pay cuts for all staff were proposed.
On Monday night, the county Board of Education was told that cost increases were even worse than expected last month, and would require further “adjustments” to the proposed budget.
That information came during a board budget work session that saw more than 200 teachers and school staff pack the Board of Education’s meeting room at the A.A. Roberty Building in Bel Air beyond capacity to protest the pay cuts.
When HCPS Superintendent Robert Tomback first presented his proposed budget on Dec. 21, it included $11.4 million in increases to various items such as health care, increases which required other money including staff pay to be cut to maintain a flat overall budget.
On Monday night, however, those increases had ballooned to $12.1 million due to required additional pension contributions for non-instructional employees, according to HCPS Budget Director Jim Jewell. Jewell said the school system did not get word about the increases from the state until after the proposed budget was first presented.
Jewell would not comment specifically on whether the proposed staff pay cuts would now exceed two percent due to the increased cost, saying only that “adjustments [to the proposed budget] will have to be made.”
Jewell estimated that the proposed two percent pay cut translates to more than $5 million. The pay cuts were not part of Tomback’s initial budget presentation on Dec. 21, and only came to light after The Dagger found them buried in a line item in the budget two weeks later.
During Monday’s budget deliberations, board member Leonard Wheeler questioned why a discussion about the salary cuts hadn’t taken place when the superintendent’s budget proposal was first introduced. Later, Wheeler told The Dagger that, “in these tough times, you to talk to people” and said the information should have been part of the original budget presentation.
However, not all board members saw a problem with the superintendent’s presentation. In an e-mail to The Dagger, board member John Smilko said Tomback’s, “overview at the last meeting [Dec. 21] was accurate and sufficient based on what we (the BOE) know at this time.”
“With 83 percent of the unrestricted budget dedicated to wages and benefits it’s rather clear where the most significant reductions can be made,” Smilko said in the e-mail. “Specifically how the reductions are made with respect to wages and benefits is subject to negotiations which are confidential during the negotiating process.”
Six attendees spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, all of whom identified themselves as HCPS teachers or teacher’s union representatives and urged the board to avoid staff pay cuts and find other ways to make up for the cost increases.
“Just because times are tough, we cannot stay stagnant or go backward, our students deserve better,” said Brian Rheinhardt, a reading specialist. “That said, innovation costs money and requires buy-in on the part of the teachers.”
But those teachers already feel unappreciated by the board, said Randy Cerveny, president of the Harford County Educators Association, which represents the county’s teachers. He said they have not taken news of the proposed pay cuts well, as Harford teachers’ salaries are already in the bottom third of all school systems statewide.
“I can’t imagine you’re not aware that teachers already feel overworked and underpaid,” Cerveny told the board. “I can assure you morale is at the lowest point I’ve seen in my thirty-plus years of teaching.”
“I’ve already heard rumblings from teachers with several years experience that are considering giving themselves a raise by going to teach in another county,” he said.
Cristen Grich, a second-grade teacher at William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary School, said she was currently pursuing a doctorate, but would have to quit her studies and take up a second job if the pay cuts are implemented.
“The recession was used a crutch for not raising salaries last year,” she said. “But food costs rose, gas rose, even Harford County taxes rose, making it difficult to afford basic bill-pay.”
Aberdeen Middle School teacher Ryan Burbey drew the loudest applause when he expressed frustration that teachers’ salaries were being cut to balance a budget on which they had no say.
“When I get my white board and computer, I would rather have been asked if I was willing to fund them,” he said. “Our salary cuts are funding budget items we have no input on.”
Several individuals present at the meeting questioned why Tomback chose to propose the required cuts in the budget himself, rather than proposing a needs-based budget for the amount required by the school system and letting other authorities including County Executive David Craig make the cuts.
After the meeting, Tomback said he made the choice to reduce the salary line items, which are subject to negotiation, as a “place holder” as his proposed budget went through the full county-level process. Tomback said that he knew what the revenue projections were likely to be and “the most straight-forward, honest, effective and efficient way to tackle the problem was to meet it head on.”
Assistant Superintendent John Markowski also took a head-on approach during his budget presentation to the board.
“There’s not much good news,” he said, concluding the presentation. “I wish it were less doom and gloom, but it is what it is.”
Cristen Grich’s comments are not true. Food prices are down year over year. Gas prices are not $4 anymore. She is right on with regards to the taxes. But the government must continue to collect if its employees want their raises.
Also, if a 2% paycut, or $800 for a person making $40,000 per year, causes her to quit her studies, the return on the investment in the doctorate must not be that high. Hopefully the tuition reimbursement offered by HCPS is helping her costs.
I am not trying to completely pick on Ms. Grich, but she is not alone in her troubles and facts would help her arguement.
You should really look into what HCPS reimburses for tuition. I am sure that teacher cannot afford to pay for her doctorate herself, given the lack of tuition reimbursement for higher level degrees by HCPS, especially at the doctorate level.
The return on investment is NOT high.
Aberdeen Voter says
HCPS gives you an additional $500 for having your Doctorate degree.
Which is a fantastic return on the investment…
To be honest, I don’t know why a teacher at any level below the college level would get a doctorate unless they want it just to have it, have their eye on becoming a professor at a university, or are looking to go into administration. (and it’s certainly not required to be an administrator.)
Aaron Cahall says
Don’t forget, it could be some kind of combined master’s/Ph.D. program. I’d have asked her, but in the insane crush of people that night, I didn’t have a chance.
Ryan Burbey says
HCPS currently pays $500 for teachers who receive thier PhD. It is not that $800 is a huge sum of money but that if you are wrking for $40,000/year in Harford County, you are already working at a deficit.
The cost of living in Harford County ranks 12th highest out of 24 counties (included is Baltimore City), as reported by the Maryland government website under “COLA.” The price of food and gas has, indeed, increased since 2008 which is the year that HCPS teachers last received a pay raise or a step increase. Many of the reports have failed to mention that HCPS teachers are not given a raise or step increase during our current school year, 2009-2010. So, the proposed pay cut is based on a salary that has remained stagnant for 2 years now. Also, although Harford County ranks 12th highest in cost of living, it ranks 3rd lowest on teacher salary.
In addition, the previous post mentioned that the 2% decrease in salary should not make a teacher end her pursuit of an advanced degree. Most likely, it is the Master’s Degree (36 credits or 12 courses)that is being referred to, not a Doctorate. And, the financial return on earning the degree is not worth it. Teacher salary difference from holding a Bachelor’s Degree to a Master’s Degree is roughly $1,000.00 per year. When each graduate-level course can cost between 500-$1,000 each and 75% reimbursement is awarded about 6 months after being enrolled in the class, I’d hardly say the overall financial return is worth it.
As I posted in the message board to the previous article about proposed budget cuts, I am confident that Dr. Tomback and the other “important people” have not sought out other options for viable cuts. Once again, let me point out the unnecessary positions within the county – people earning more than they would as a classroom teacher yet not doing nearly the same amount of work. Has classroom instruction really improved since the creation of mentor teacher positions? Instructional Facilitator positions? If so, let me see the student achievement data that supports that claim. Cutting those positions alone and placing those employees back into the classroom (which means new teachers are not needed to be hired) is just one significant way to make a budget cut.
For a county who ranks 10th in the state for median household income and per capita income, paying their teachers the third lowest rate in the county is sad. In comparison, Cecil County ranks 16th and teachers in that district make more per step. Its all about priorities, I guess.
I agree Ravensfan…there is definitely plenty of room to make cuts from the top. But those at the top make the decisions and would rather stay insulated by making those at the bottom suffer the brunt of the cuts.
Hopefully these cuts won’t really happen, but it looks as if some of the reasons is an increase in pensions and health insurance. Let’s not forget that pensions and health insurance are part of an employee’s salary. There are many cuts that can be made from the top that will not just be a better decision, it will give us a better school system!
You know…I know we are all facing bad times and many state workers have been furloughed and even have lost their jobs. After talking to several teachers today in my school, although we don’t want to ever see our pay cut (who does?) we would not feel so angry and would probably suck it up and take the 2% if we did not see so much waste happening in the schools, as well as the continuos “extra jobs” required of us all the time. If the only thing we had to do was teach then it would be an entirely different matter and we would take one for the team. Instead, we watch teachers who are bullied by lying disgraceful principals who get away with so much because of the rear ends they kiss as well as central office and the board of ed approving things that are way out of budget that are unnecessary and quite frankly detrimental to students. Like the Everyday Math Program. Please let us teach and do our jobs and you will find that the number of disgruntled teachers in this county will slowly diminish.
Tracy, I agree with you. With younger children the problem seems to be Everyday Math. With the older kids it’s the Block Schedule. The kids kind of like it because they get time to do their homework in class. The parents hate it because it gives the teachers less time to teach, partially because they don’t use the time effectively, partly because teenagers don’t pay attention that long, and partly because there are now 8 classes instead of 7. Sure, we want to focus on science and math now, so lets make those classes shorter overall so we can throw in another elective. The teachers agree with the parents. There is one person in the school system it benefits, lets hope the new superintendent doesn’t fall for all of his crazy charts.
Sorry, but block scheduling is here to stay and it has nothing to do with kids and EVERYTHING to do with dollars.
On the old 7 period schedule, a typical teacher taught 5 periods with one personal planning period and one devoted to department meetings, administrative meetings, etc.
Now, with the A/B day block schedule, a teacher teaches 6 periods.
Block scheduling squeezes one extra class out of a teacher, saving money. If you went back to the old way of doing business, you would have to hire more bodies to absorb the difference.
I hate block scheduling too….but it is here to stay. All about the dollars.
Jay, Yes, when Dave Volrath first started talking about it a friend told me about it. We did everything we could to fight it. We had petitions,spread the word, got everyone we could involved, got the Aegis involved, talked with the HCEA, everything we could think of to help our teachers. We tried hard. Many teachers didn’t care, some were afraid to speak out. We made sure to have at least one parent speak at each BOE meeting. We met with the county executive, with Barry Glassman, with Dave Volrath, Pat Hess and some other BOE members. No one was interested at all. Finally some teachers gained interest, but it was too late. The teachers would have a lot less work without the block schedule. We fought hard for the ours teachers, really hard. Unfortunately we lost. And unfortunately we chose a battle the teachers didn’t care as much about as we thought they would.
Sandy!!! it is not that the teachers do not care….We care…it is just that we have been trained to fear central office and the board of ed and would be fired for speaking up. Jackie Haas played a big role in this fear.Trust me…I can go on and on about this topic….
I didn’t mean to suggest that we ONLY fought this for the teachers, that was part of it. We knew we would lose teachers and the teachers would have less time per student. They would be over worked. Our kids started getting all their papers, in some classes, back graded at the end of the quarter. So, if they made mistakes, they didn’t know it until it was too late. So it was also bad for our students. My daughter took an AP History class and they didn’t even get to the civil war. Good thing she studied on her own!
Tracy, I know about the troubles with Dr. Haas, it’s strange. In some ways she was such a nice lady. Whenever my sister in law talked to someone about getting alternate placement for my nephew she would just get blown off. IEP meeting after IEP meeting. He was adopted, FAS, autistic, anger control issues. He was in a 6th grade class doing multiplication and division when he couldn’t add. It was sad. I talked to Jackie, she looked into it and approved Kennedy Kreiger and changed his life in 2 weeks.
But I didn’t like the way she ruled the school board and could never figure out what she held over them. It was so illogical. All the teachers were afraid to say anything, why in the world would she not want to know how a new program was working out. And the funny thing is that we couldn’t convince the school board members that the teaachers were afraid to say anything. They would tell us to tell the teachers to come directly to them instead, but who is going to take that chance with their job. We tried to convince them, she had them all fooled.
I completely agree with everything you have stated, except the pay cuts. I will not accept at any cost a 2% pay cut. I teach on one of the Route 40 schools and have been here for several years. We are struggling for support. We have admins, making the big bucks, who are afraid to suspend children, can not handle confrontation and expect more and more and more out of their teachers. In the several years that my school struggles to make AYP (if we even do), I have NEVER once seen one of the head honchos come down and offer assistance. They do not even walk through the building to check up on instruction and more importantly the administrators. Finally, I believe that in a budget crunch such as this, maybe HCPS needs to consider taking in Title I funding from the fed gov’t. for their secondary schools. Several middle and high schools could be receiving this type of funding if HCPS officials were not so pompous about its integrity as a “wealthy district.”
From talking with other teachers throughout my school and throughout the district, the morale is at an all time low. I am not proud to teach in HCPS. I feel that this school district is the most disorganized, top-heavy district and needs to be taken over by outsiders. The school board needs to become a board of ELECTED officials. In addition, the school board seriously needs to hire an outsider to help them budget their costs. In a school district that brings in more tax base and funding per student than larger districts in the state (such as AA county), they put less money back into each student. My question is: Where is the money going????
Now this is third hand so I’m sure it’s gotten a little distorted, but apparently this past week administrators at a Balt. City high school (one of the bad ones) were having a meeting with teachers discussing cutbacks and the fact that they’ll (teachers) will have to spend more of their own money on classroom supplies, but also said “It could be worse. You could work for Harford County.”
That’s pretty bad when people would rather work at a bad inner city school than work in Harford County…
Leaving, we recently won that fight and with the next elections will begin to elect some of our BOE members.
Good point we rank 3rd lowest in per pupil spending! Essentially the people in this county are cheap!
An over-all average per student can be misleading. It would be interesting to break out the spending by category among the various school districts:
1. Direct student education; teacher salaries, books, etc.
2. Indirect student education; translators, handlers for special ed students, grief counselors, etc.
3. General student overhead; security, transportation, cafeteria, etc.
4. Local school overhead; principals, administrative staff, repairs, utilities, etc.
5. School district overhead; Executive administration, BOE expenses, legal, etc.
Maybe Harford is spending a reasonable amount on the direct student costs but doesn’t have the bloated overheads of other districts, which wouldn’t be bad.
Yes but we also know we have teacher salaries in the lower third and compared to districts with a comparable student body size…less administrators. This leads me to believe we are just trying to do the bare minimum to get by.
Just so you know Special Ed costs would be a direct student interaction. That alone drives up the bulk of the cost in a projection as it costs more to educate a special education student due to the many laws governing required meetings, testing and buracracy for each and every one. I am sure we have waste, like all counties but we really do not spend enough and it is no small wonder we have some of the issues we have.
Joseph Caruso says
Great post, but it doesn’t matter to people like Cdev. We could double per student spending and it still wouldn’t be enough.
Cdev doesn’t want to thoroughly audit and examine the numbers. He’d rather focus on the simple math of per student expenditure and criticize that it is insufficient.
Cdev is a “True Believer” in all things governmental and Progressive.
Special ed costs are delineated w/n the posted budget on line. The number of students served, between ages 2-21 ranges from 5600 to 5800 w/n the last 3 years posted. I am not sure that the breakdown of costs is applicable when some spec. ed students are mainstreamed in schools. Cdev, you cannot compare apples w/ oranges and use your bare basic argument w/ education. Most of our schools are top of the line quality and most of our teachers are excellent. The issue is the amount of waste w/n the budget and that waste can be addressed w/t cutting teacher/staff salary. Constructive ideas are welcome as addressed in other posts, like TP or others. Teachers and principals should have been asked where to consolidate funds, cut costs and un-necessary expenses before the budget was presented in Dec. I hope that the bd of ed does hear and cut other expenses and not salaries, but the funds are not going to be available as they once had been and the teachers are going to have to present a casewith facts not fiction.
Cdev, Are our taxes cheaper than surrounding counties? More than half our taxes go to education. What are the other counties doing differently?
For starters, they do not have the Instructional Facilitator position. Starting salary for an IF? 90K. Yep, 90K for a position that really plans staff development and helps with observations. Other counties “get by” with school administration and content supervisors doing the observation of teachers…like we did a few years ago. How many IFs are there in the county? I don’t know. I would surmise that there may be 20 or more. That right there is close to 2 million dollars wrapped up in a position that experienced teachers never utilize.
We also have mentor teachers who are paid on the teacher scale. In surrounding counties, new teachers are aided by fellow teachers with experience. Harford County identifies a person for that task, and pays them a salary to do it. Since their salary is based upon years of service, it is hard to say how much this wastes…but each school comes with one!
Did you know that most (and it could be every) school comes equipped with cable television in all classrooms? What is the purpose of that? So I can watch ESPN during my planning time? If I were to show anything to my kids via cable television, my prinicipal would have me by the neck! So, why do we pay for that?
We could play this game of “how does HCPS waste money” until my fingers fall off from typing but it won’t matter. The Board and our new Super (who gets a car and gas fund because 190K is not enough) have already decided that cutting teacher pay will be the way to go.
David, that’s a great start! How does someone get to be an IF? Is it like a promotion from being a teacher or is it something that requires a different degree all together?
How do you feel about assistant principals? Different schools are different sizes, so I can see different needs. But when the cafeteria is monitored by an AP for roughly 1/2 the day, it seems they could hire someone at a much lower salary than that to monitor the cafeteria and cut back on the number of APs. I asked Dave Volrath this once and was told that you never give up a position once you get it in the budget. I think that’s the wrong way of thinking in times like these.
Pull out music lessons in middle school! This to me is crazy. You have kids missing academic classes to go to band/orchestra lessons once each week. I understand the reason is the teachers want to work with the kids in small groups. Well, I bet it would benefit the kids to work in small groups in math too, but the math teacher doesn’t get to pull anyone out of English. Some schools are more flexible, my son was redistricted to a school that was crazy strict about it. He could only miss a lesson if it was for a test and then he would have to make it up the following week. His lessons were on Friday. In middle school, Friday is test day. He had a lesson during an English class and his English teach told him he couldn’t go. They were having an important book discussion and there was no way for him to make it up. He went to tell his orchestra teacher and she told him he had to stay since it wasn’t a test. What crazy teacher would put an 8th grader in a position like that. His English teacher sent someone to get him. That evening she called me to let me know what happened. She said it was not my son’s fault, he didn’t know what to do, but she thought I should be aware of the situation. He got a 0 for that lesson. I went to the principal and got it changed, but the point is that why are we pulling kids out of class for this, they already have band/orchestra in their schedule? It’s to employ more music teachers. I say get rid of the lessons, have less music teachers and hire more teachers to have smaller class sizes. He had 32 kids in his math class that year, but 4 in his music lesson class. That’s nonsense!
OK, Look Joe an audit has been done and an AUdit every so often is a good idea.
To those spouting off the line ” half our budget goes to education….” Guess what in MD that is the case for most counties. Our taxes are lower then some and higher then others.
Look waste is there but that is only part of the problem. But a good place to look is how much we tie up in not spending money. For example. I am under the impression attendance secrataries enter the data in by hand still? Why not get a bar code system so it is easier and takes less time. eventually you could consolidate a position with enough cost effective purchases!
Joseph Caruso says
You do not understand budget manipulation. Budget exception process and procedure are important. HCPS plays Three Card Monty with department line items and re-allocate absent fiscal discipline.
In other words they cheat by moving expenses without oversight from department to department. They incorrectly treat the budget as one big slush fund or kitty. It is reckless and irresponsible.
Sandy, I understand your issue with your kids being pulled out of class for sectionals or whatever they call it here, but the fact is in a regular rehearsal there just isn’t time to work on individual problems or problems that say the trumpet section is having. Those extra practices are a necessity if the band/orchestra/chorus is going to put on a concert that anyone is going want to listen to. I was in band from 4th grade all the way through college and never had a teacher have an issue about me missing class for a sectional. It was the same time every week and the teachers planned their lessons accordingly (though I’m sure that’s probably more difficult to do now with block scheduling since teachers only see a particular student 2 or 3 times a week.) On the rare occasions we had a test or some other lesson that couldn’t be made up later my band director didn’t have a problem with us missing the sectional. It sounds like to me there’s a bit of a turf battle happening at your kid’s school between the band director and some of the teachers and unfortunately your kid is caught in the middle. That’s something that administration should probably address if it’s as bad as you describe.
Having those extra rehearsals doesn’t mean schools are hiring more music teachers. There’s generally one band or orchestra director and one choral director. In addition to running the various music groups music teachers also teach general music electives. It’s not like HCPS is hiring 3 or 4 music teachers per school just so they can have sectional rehearsals. I’d be very surprised to learn that any middle or high school in the county has more than 2 music teachers (which is all my high school had and still has and it’s significantly larger than any HCPS school…in some cases 3x as large.)
DW my wifes has 3.5 music teachers in her middle school. One of the smallest in the county!
CDev, then that sounds like a waste to me. If a high school of 2500 students can have a good music program with over a dozen small ensembles between band and chorus (plus a top marching band and two different skill levels of band and chorus) with only having 1 band director and 1 chorus director then I don’t see why a small middle school would need that many teachers. They did also have a part time guy who choreographed the color guard and a volunteer who ran the drum line for the marching band. The small music groups met before school and the marching band rehearsed after school so those weren’t an impact on the school day.
If that’s typical of how HCPS runs their music programs than I would have to say that would be an area to look at for cuts, though I’m generally against making cuts in things like music programs.
DW, this was a middle school problem, so no block schedule involved. They don’t do pull out lessons in high school, which makes me question the necessity. The first middle school, the orchestra director was flexible and it wasn’t a big problem. We were redistricted to a middle school with a first year orchestra teacher. That was the problem. The first middle school had 2 band directors, and orchestra director, and 2 chorus teachers. They all split general music classes. But obviously, if a teacher is teaching lessons with 4 and 5 kids at a time, they could get rid of the lessons and hire another math, science, english, or whatever that particular school is lacking.
Patrick McGrady says
I appreciate your concerns regarding the pay cut. Please encourage your teacher colleagues to expose the waste in the school system. If you can make apparent a lot of waste, it may be possible to stave off these pay cuts.
It’s good to hear people on the Dagger providing positive criticism rather than just complaining about the pay cut. Keep it up, and maybe make a call over to Tomback’s office. The evidence that I have seen thus far is that he is open for input for the entire BOE staff.
keep at home text books. What is wrong with kids taking their books to and from school and being responsible for them?
What’s wrong is that most kids show up to school without pencils or papers. How could teachers expect them to bring a book, as well. How can teachers teach when their kids don’t bring books?
Cdev, for the most part I agree with you. And our PTA raised the money for classroom sets of text books so the money didn’t come out of the budget. But the teachers are supposed to team teach, right? Some days we couldn’t even FIT all of my kids’ books in their backpacks. My oldest has a growth disorder and is very tiny, her backpack weighed more than her, and she was a walker. I remember every morning, her sitting down and scooting her backback on. Then I would have to pick her up and set her on her feet because the books were always too heavy for her to stand up with. She didn’t want me to carry them for her, she is very independent, but it was a very long walk for her like that. Early elementary teachers need to consider what they are expecting these kids to carry!
Perhaps ES I could buy but buy middle school and high school it should not be needed. I also don’t care who paid for it. It is a waste. If the PTA wastes the money that is as much a travesty as if the BOE does in my opinion. I know of one school that bought a plasma screen TV for the principals office with PTA money.
Cdev, ooo, there are 2 problems with that TV. First is that it is in the national PTA bylaws that all PTA money must be spent to directly benefit the kids. That’s a hard argument to make. Also, once it is bought for a school it becomes HCPS property and could be given to any school. That is a chance we were willing to take with the text books because we bought most of them on ebay and they didn’t cost very much. Maybe the school system should consider different ways to buy text books, they could save a fortune!
Sandy you know that the idea that the PTA came up with for the books…the county did it with their money in every other s school. Thus kids do not carry books to and from school! I can give you for ES kids this makes sense but MS and HS kids can carry a book if the teacher is going to use it at school!
The TV thing is just that a waste. This same school has a plasma TV in the main office too! There is no reason for an HD TV in schools since schools do not get HD cable etc. Again If a PTA is spending money on those things then they have to much money. You can argue if you try that anything benefits the students but the reality is somethings are wastes. Ons school has at least 24 laptop carts (that is how many I counted plugged in the hall when I had a meeting there) while other schools of similar sizes deal with 2 (my wifes school). school two uses it daily and requires teachers to submit a lesson plan to use them since they are such demanded. I don’t think school A has that problem I bet some of them go unused! School B could use 4-6 of those and I bet school A didn’t need all that it got!
a bit biased... says
As a former music teacher, I may be a bit biased about reducing music teachers. That being said, keep in mind that one difference between MS and HS music is that generally the music classes at MS are taught on the “team”. So if a 7th grade team has 5 sections, that MS music teacher has to have 5 sections of music and the schedule has to coordinate w/that particular team. Generally that’s why you may see more MS teachers proportionally than you do at the HS where they don’t use the team concept. Of course, I’ve heard for several years that some people in education want to get rid of general music entirely…
a bit biased….although I’m not thinking of you that way. As a former music teacher, did you teach “regular music” or instrumental music? My issue is with instrumental music teachers doing pull out lessons. They teach a 6th, 7th, and 8th grade band every other day which takes up 3 of their 14 periods for 2 days. I think they are each responsible for 4 general music classes, someone correct me if I’m wrong, that leaves 7 periods. 2 planning periods, and that’s 5 periods of pull out lessons with a few kids in each class. In tight times, facing pay cuts, that money could be used much more wisely. And the kids would stop missing academic classes. Let’s face it, if everything could just be made up at home we could get rid of all the teachers and assign the work on line or something.
a bit biased... says
I taught instrumental. Let’s say I had bands the first three periods of the day, I could give lessons on the “off” days that the kids went to gym, but I couldn’t be scheduled to teach general music during those 3 periods. So, more likely, you’d have three periods you could schedule general music classes (leaving one for planning, which is usually what I allotted myself instead of two, so that I could have a longer rotating schedule and students missed an academic class less frequently – twice per quarter, in fact). I do understand your point though. Interestingly, at my old school, they were trying to create more unified arts classes and I suggested an additional math or reading rotation. They told me that they wanted more “fun” classes so kids who may not otherwise be interested in school might look forward to those classes. So instead they looked at trying a theatre class and a character ed class (none of which at the time were in the curriculum – a minor detail!)
a bit biased... says
One easy way to cut spending…..a teacher I know is reading one book for his school and another for his department. I guess they read these and then have to do a report/presentation on the books. Nice idea (I suppose), but multiply the cost of each book by the amount of teachers and imagine the final cost. Probably just a case of principals/supervisors trying to make themselves look good. I’m all for continuing education, but if the money’s not there, they shouldn’t be buying all of these extra things for teachers!
a bit biased... says
well, not to get myself on a tangent, but since you’ve gotten me thinking….as a “non-academic” subject, students were often pulled out of my class….peer helper meetings, SGA, Boys to Men, not to mention field trips, honor breakfasts, guidance appointments. Not that these things aren’t important, but everyone has all of these great ideas and programs they want to implement, but the time during the school day doesn’t increase. I think by now the character ed course might have a curriculum, so that’s another thing that’s required to squeeze in….not sure if it’s offered in the whole county?
I had to laugh when I saw the comment about teachers having to read books for staff development. I too have had to read a book each year and have to complete homework to be ready for the next faculty meeting. Guess what….I can tell you that I don’t know of one teacher in my school who was pleased with this. I can also tell you that myself as well as many other teachers in my school refused to read the dumb books and just came and sat at the meetings. I am going to graduate school which is a requirement for me to maintain my teaching job. I have those books to read. Talk about a complete waste of a teachers time. But I can tell you this…if anyone is looking for a good teacher reference book, then I have plenty of un-read books sitting at school on a shelf collecting dust all at the expense of the taxpayers including my self. I wonder if this was another part of Jackie Haas’ doctorate like the mentor teachers and the useless instructional facilitators that were inflicted upon us.
I forgot to add in a comment from my last posting about teachers reading books for faculty meetings. My principal even thinks it is a complete waste of time and she apologizes all the time when we have to meet to discuss the stupid book.
Biased, twice per quarter would be great! Was there also an orchestra teacher and how did that figure in?
biased, I guess the library was too easy an answer? Or at least buying as many as possible used. It sounds like they always use the same vendors for things instead of looking for the best price.
Ryan Burbey says
I think the public should be aware that furloughing teachers is not like furloughin other employees. We still must complete the necessary work, we just have fewer days to do it. Likewise, it is ridiculous to lower the pay for employees who are already working voluntarily outside their duty day.
excellent point Ryan!!! but the more I think about it, maybe we should be fuloughed a few days and not take the pay cut. That way, if we are furloughed then we can’t be in school to teach kids. Kids have to stay home…Parents have to find daycare and it messes up said parents schedule. Then kids won’t be in school 180 days it would be a few less because of the furlough. It would not be cost effective to furlough and then continue 180 days. Then after the Central office takes a bunch of crap from angry parents and tax paying citizens then maybe that would spark something in the idiots at the board of ed and central office to sit down and cut out the waste. Don’t get me wrong. I am a teacher, and I don’t want a cut or to be furloughed. But maybe something big like this has to happen to open up peoples eyes. You sure would not have as many parents complain about teachers, Heck…On facebook when we were off those 2 snow days many parents were writing how they could not stand to be with the kids at home anymore and could not wait for school to start again. Thats right…we are glorified babysitters according to many parents….so not only do we teach we raise kids as well for many parents. Just saying is all..
School districts in other states have saved money by extending the school day so that buildings are only open 4 days per week. Why wouldn’t this work here?
If you are a teacher….would you work an extra 1 1/2 or 1 3/4 hours per day in order to help save money? Seems like the same amount of weekly time, just longer days…with an extra day off to conserve costly resources. Less heat, less AC in the hot months, less energy for cafeteria appliances, less lighting, less time for computers to be on, etc.
My son’s company recently put him on a 4 10-hour days schedule to save money. Same amount of work, but at a cost savings to the company.
Tracy, personally I would not want you to teach my student, let alone babysit. Maybe you should consider another career.
Thats to bad RES becasue my 5th grade class loves me and so do all the parents in the past and the present as they know how much I go out of my way and continue to go out of my way for my students. I will also continue to go out of my way even after a 2% pay cut becasue it is not the students fault any of this goes on. By the way several years ago I was nominated for teacher of the year in Harford County. It seems to me that undedicated teachers are not brought up for such a high awards RES…so glad your not one of the parents in my room…..
Joe Mangini says
WARNING — Tracy’s reply is not indicative of the level of writing of all teachers —
Please, before you tell the world how great you are, check your grammar. In your first four or five words you have three errors. The rest of your piece is riddled with mistakes, most of which are not mistyped words.
We brought this up at a BOE meeting, of course they don’t answer you. They did bring it up a few weeks later when they were considering ways to save space instead of building schools or something. They can’t do a 4 day week because of sports. Since we play other counties, we have to be available 5 days, and they play during school days. I, personally, don’t like high school sports, practice and games 5 days a week and most Saturdays is too much. Doesn’t leave enough time for homework, studying, and a job!
Just curious…I thought I read about sporting events in the Aegis that occurred when kids were on their Christmas break. If my memory serves, couldn’t games on the “closed” day take place as normal?
High School sports teams can play games over break except for the 24th, 25th and 1st.
Should you have been working a 10:48 on a Thursday?
Jimmy, she posted saying that the reason she was posting when she would normally be teaching is because she’s in the hospital waiting for a c-section and has her laptop with her.
It’s a good thing she has a generous leave policy for child birth. It might keep her out until spring.
Jimmy – what is the maternity leave policy where you work? I am of the understanding that they are all pretty generous these days.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires larger employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees who either have a serious health condition themselves, or must care for a seriously ill family member.
This also applies to pregnancy or “Maternity Leave”
HCPS allows teachers to use accumulated sick days in order to be paid while on leave.
jimmy, by law HCPS has to give 12 weeks off. If she has enough sick leave she can use it for those 12 weeks otherwise it’s unpaid if she takes that much. That’s pretty much the same everywhere and I have never heard of any company not allowing an employee taking leave under the FMLA to use their accumulated sick and/or vacation leave in order to get paid.
Realist. they could but then you would have the bussing problem of getting the kids to school. How would the kids who don’t drive get there if their parents both work?
Realist: I would actually not mind doing that. And that has been a proven way in many states and school districts to cut cost in many ways. I guess you would have to consider though the high school sports teams and after school events in the winter time when it gets dark so much earlier….
If you’re going to do a furlough, why not furlough the 12 month employees during the summer. My guess is you wouldn’t really lose anything if central office closed for 10 days during the summer. I think this is what Anne Arundel county Schools did last summer.
There are lots of ways to save money. Setting thermostats to 68 in the winter would be a good start.
HCPS doesn’t really want to save money. They are offering up the least attractive option, hoping that the County Council will come up with more money.
Just a mom: Great suggestions and you hit the nail on the head. I can see them wanting the County Council to look bad in the end. I guess that would be a political strategy.
no furloughs says
well here is the thing the 12 month employee such as the custodian is very busy working during the summer, dusting all the rooms sanitizing all the desks, removing furniture from classrooms waxing floors, extracting carpets, deep cleaning bathrooms, fixing plumbing issues, maintaining the grounds in a very limited amount of time, in an elementry school you may have 4 custodians to do over 30 classrooms, completly as well as offices storage closets, conference rooms, and if your school has summer school, with 90 percent of the classrooms field, and summer workshops, any furlough days would not leave any room for error, YEs we could furlough and not clean for a week or so but who would clean the buildings, and fight deadly viruses such as hepatitis mrsa, and other germs, or do we want to create breeding grounds
Ryan Burbey says
They will most likely schedule the furloughs on staff development which will then just be absorbed into the duty day.
THANKS JOE!!!!! for those kind words. I don’t think I am great at all…Just a teacher trying to do her job. OH AND BY THE WAY!!!!! If you’re wondering why I have time to be a teacher and come on this site during the day. I am actually laying in a hopspital bed waiting for a c-section in just a few hours. I have my laptop and I am on some pretty good doses of medicine. Sorry teachers on here for giving the wrong impression that I would normally type like this and excuse the typos. Don’t want to take away form the actual topic of the article. Talk to ya later Joe….
Wow Tracy, that’s some dedication! Make sure you tell us how everything goes! Good luck and congrats!
Why thank you Steve. This is Tracy but for some reason when I entered my name to make a comment, it won’t submit it unless I changed the name. Who knows what happened in the last 2 days. For all that care I have a beautiful baby boy sleeping very soundly right now. THANK GOODNESS!!!! I see I missed a lot of great comments on here. I sure do hope the Board of Education is reading this and taking in all the suggestions. I did manage to write a letter to the Board of Ed but my guess is that they will not care.
Tracy, congrats, I’ll pray for a healthy baby and a good sleeper!
There are million of other salaried employees that put in more than 8 hours a day. When politicians say, “Everyone needs to pay their fair share.” Why doesn’t that apply to educators too?
Why doesn’t it apply to politicians?
Most of all it should apply to them. Apparently their creed is “do as I say, not as I do.”
When Dr. Tomback was interviewed for his job, he was asked about teachers and what they could do if they had issues. His answer was that “he believed in the Chain of Command.” If you look at the whole issue of AIM in Baltimore County and the way the Superintendent dealt with it and the teachers, I am afraid he may have adopted the same management style. Dr. Hairston doesn’t seem to think it his job to respond to teachers and leaves that to others. Harford County isn’t even close to being the same size as Baltimore but I do worry how and where Dr. Tomback is going to get his information from. He isn’t familiar with the county demographically, culturally, or politically.
Kaye…your right…sad to say but he will get his info from the very people that put the teachers down and give them no respect.
I wonder where the teacher’s association is. They collect huge chunks of teacher salary, but they seem willing to quietly let the central office do all of the talking
To The Bloated Education System,
Stop your bitching and wake up. The economics that have allowed Education to become the Goliath that it is – simply don’t exist anymore. Pick up a Wall Street Journal instead of that Baltimore Sun Rag and look at what is going on around you. We have a true unemployment rate in excess of 20%, New York and California are bankrupt, a declining tax base, job growth in the government sector only, and no signs of any real economic improvement anytime soon. The only reason Maryland is somewhat insulated is because of all the Government Jobs provided by Washington DC.
If you don’t like your job – go ahead and quit. There are plenty of American’s with real life experience looking for jobs that will be able to fill your shoes.
Braveheart – I respectfully submit that your last sentence is flawed. I truly believe that those without the “calling” to be a teacher would last one day in a classroom and wonder…”I would severely punish my kid if he acted that way, how do you teachers do it?” Spending your career in a class of other peoples kids is not a walk in the park. It may have been in the past! In my day, teachers AND principals used forms of corporal punishment to keep kids in line. Nowadays, a teacher yells at a student and they get reported to the superintendent.
Nope, anyone with sense knows that if you aren’t called to be a teacher, it really isn’t an attractive job. You can make more in fast food management and have much less stress.
Your first paragraph is dead on. Times are tough. For me though, when times are tough you cut the fat and keep the necessities. Teachers are necessities. The wasted programs and positions (those who have no DIRECT impact on a child) are where the cuts need to come from. Cut the fat cats first, cut the wasteful spending first…and then let’s talk about those who actually do the real work.
just asking says
I’d say the school board ripped the page from the library. “We’ll close Fallston Library” certainly seemed to work wonders.
Let’s start with services that are duplicitous. Consider Curriculum and Assessment. Isn’t it the STATE’s constitutional responsibility to mandate curriculum? Why then does the county also have a division of curriculum and instruction? Cut # 1
Athletics. Isn’t there a parks and rec athletic program? Why not turn athletics over to parks and rec? Or better yet – PRIVATIZE them! Then there will be no need for eligibility rules! Then they can schedule all the contests after school – kids won’t get pulled from class. Money saved on transportation, insurance, officials, etc. Cut # 2
What about all those COMAR rules? Why not insist on our delegation and senators to the general assembly sponsor bills to repeal some of the COMAR stuff the pushes up the cost of special education? Cut # 3
What about GT in elementary schools? There’s a large staff of itinerant teachers who could become regular classroom teachers again. All the HCPS has to do is to go back to the old way for GT – homogeneous grouping. Right now it is just a tool for public relations. Make sure every kid is “gifted” and sell that to the parents! Cut # 4
What about this monolith called OTIS. OUTSOURCE OTIS. In the last several years they have grown parasitically. Somehow they even got it into their contracts to be paid to train teachers on the whiteboards they are now being made to pay for! Cut # 5
Why not consolidate or close some schools? Start with Harford Glen. Make it a daytime program. Send the staff back to classrooms. Let the attending teachers prepare and deliver the lessons as part of day field trips. Save on all kinds of costs by suspending or eliminating the night program.
Cut # 6
What about consolidating Dublin and Darlington ? There’s at least two or three less administrators that would be needed. Cut # 7
Not from Here says
Tp–You want to cut GT but not special ed? If you are for homogeneous grouping, cutting special ed will save a whole lot more money. By the way, there is no GT in HCPS only one enrichment teacher per school. [For those of you who have trouble with sarcasm–this is it, so no need for body slams.]
I’ve always wondered what those curriculum folks do. Other than coordinate the all-county program, What does the Director of music curriculum do? How about the Director of Math curriculum? These curriculums don’t change that often. Other school districts pull together ad hoc committees of parents, teachers, and administrators to evaluate new curriculums when needed.
TP is right on, HCPS needs to looks at all it’s programs before they start cutting salaries. Especially since salaries have to be re-negotiated. There are much better ways to do this.
Sandy – What a refreshing comment from a parent, NOT wanting their kid pulled out of academic classes. I hope you and others with your feelings continue to take your message loud and strong to the BOE. The fact of the matter is that there are many many adults (administrators, other teachers, and parents) who actully believe that social activities and athletics BELONG DURING the school day and that academic time should be sacrificed for this. Teachers are also put in the middle. I might be conducting an important segment of a lesson topic in my AP class, and a student or two will tell me they have “permission” to go to the drama room to practice for the school play “if it is ok with me” (It NEVER is) When I tell them they shouldn’t go , they will just go anyway and when they do poorly on the AP test, I’ll probably have to take part of the blame. The same thing is true in the high schools for athletics. Students (and teachers who are coaches) are ROUTINELY pulled out of academic and instructional responsiblities. Some high schools have “club day” where an hour of instruction is sacrificed for all kinds of socialization like chess clubs, checkers clubs, or more frequently just free period. Some of the principals schedule honors breakfasts almost every two weeks and the same kids are pulled out for donuts and soda on a fairly regular basis. If the parents really want the kids to learn please use your activism to lobby the BOE and the supt. to LEAVE THEM IN THEIR REGULAR SCHEDULED CLASSES!
TP, I agree. My kids don’t participate in sports for that reason. Yes they are very good students, but some things just can’t be made up. Book discussions always come to mind first. And science labs. Sure, I guess the teacher could stay after, but really, my kids science teachers weren’t willing to stay after and set up a lab for 2 kids who chose to go to a soccer game, they are just told to get the notes from someone else. I can see both sides. It’s a school sponsored event, then again, labs can take a long time to set up, not just do. Anyway, but there is no getting around it. I chose to keep my kids out of sports and they end up having coaches for teachers, AP teachers yet, who are gone a lot if you happen to have that class at the end of the day. And the teachers get paid extra for being a coach? They get to leave school early and play sports. That’s one cut I wouldn’t mind making, but I know most parents don’t feel that way.
Oh, and I have definately expressed my opinion to the principals, the BOE, and had quite a disagreement with Jim Board over this. I’m hoping middle school reform will help.
Hate to break it to you but rarely are sports teams supposed to pull kids out of classes. If it is it is for the occasional (once or twice a season) travel to an away match and most athletes are better about making up the work then average kids.
Cdev, that isn’t true of high school sports in Harford County. I wish it was. Just thinking of the swim team, most schools don’t even have pools. Patterson Mill didn’t have usable fields, same with North Harford and now Bel Air. Softball sometimes has 2 away games a week. Football has an away game every other week. I’d have to pull up the sports calendar to get the rest, these are the ones I know off the top of my head. They most definitely travel more than once or twice a season.
First the complaint was missing school time for sports and in that aspect is what I comeneted on!
OK My kid swims and I can tell you that swim teams RARELY miss school. The few times it happens (2 per year are simply not large amounts of time. In fact except for Joppatowne (who uses MMS) Edgewood (who uses EMS) and North Harford (who use NHMS) any one else who is using a pool for practice is doing so later in the evening (4:30 or later) and alternates schedules. By travel I meant like way out of county so that they have to miss school. let’s take basketball for example the bus leaves Joppatowne for North Harford at what 3:45 PM? School is out by then. Kids are not missing school for games and those that have no fields are usually leaving on a bus after the school day has ended. My wife has one of the “fieldless” schools practicing/playing Softball and Fieldhockey at her school and the bus does not arrive at the school until after their students have departed at 2:55 and usually it is like 3:15. She also has a pool in her building and swim teams, when not the school they feed into, usually get there at 2:45 again plenty of time to leave after dismissal!
Cdev, at Fallston and Aberdeen the kids and coaches leave during last period. This is why we rotate the last 2 classes each day in the schedule, so the kids aren’t missing the same classes all the time. This was done in the schedule purposely so I’m not sure what you are talking about.
The winter sports are unusual in that they rarely miss school. It is the fall and spring sports that miss frequently – sometimes all day. Here are some examples. I had two students pulled out of class on the first day of school back in August for a golf match. Several of these same students were pulled out of an ENTIRE school day for golf matches. (the teacher also missed his classes all day for this) In the spring students will be pulled out of class nearly every other day for athletic constests. So what if the schedule alternates? Some kids have math on a B day and science on an A day. They always have to miss one of them. Further, many athletic contests get postponed or resheduled due to the weather. They are then rescheduled at the end. By the end of the quarter, right before exams when teachers are just getting the classes to construct meaning from several weeks of content the kids are pullled out several days in a row for resheduled contests. Let me tell you from a teacher – they ARE pulled out way too much. . . And then when they score poorly on an AP test . . . someone in the Dagger writes an article about how poorly the AP teachers are performing. Go figure. Teachers have no guarantee that students enrolled will actually be present for instruction!
TP, that you for clearing that up. High School kids belong in high school. When I asked the school board to make the games later I was told it wouldn’t work because of other counties and because of after school jobs. Messed up priorities. I don’t think we should have high school sports at all.
Ok with golf agaian I said about twice and you gave me two instances. Was on of them in October like the state final match? Don’t know which school you are particularly elluding too. Aberdeen has swim practice most of the time at 4:30-6:00 PM at Edgewood MS. I know once they practiced at Magnolia on a bye day at 3:00 PM. I would debate the logic of them missing class for that as they could leave in plenty of time AFTER school. You make it sound like a religious experience and it is not. Fallston swim team alternates between the two time slots at NHMS 4:30-6:00 and 6:00-7:30 PM again not requiring you to miss school. maybe once in a blue moon on a bye day they practice earlier. So again the school schedule is NOT rotating for your swim team. If you believe it is then you should ask why. Spring sports. I do not know what to say since I know nothing to the contrary.
I think sports can be a valuable learning experience if done correctly. Alas some coaches or schools do not do it correctly and in that case. But if you are saying that the exact same kid is being pulled out for a sport OFTEN then something is wrong with that picture and needs to be addressed. I do not believe that is the case in all schools. Missing class is a rare exception and not the general rule. Nationally studies show athletes have better time magmt skills then the average kid.
Cdev, Yes, they have better management skills. My oldest is a serious dancer, graduated a year early, and worked 2 jobs. She started dancing 7 days a week when she was 7 and has great time management skills. But she doesn’t miss school for any of this. These were all non-school activities. Middle daughter at the SMA has to practice heer oboe at least 2 hours a night and works a couple cleaning jobs. My son works 2 jobs also. I agree with time management skills being improved, but I don’t agree with them missing so much time. I just asked my daughter, her history teacher missed about 1/2 of her last period class once per week during soccer season. Too much time out of the classroom!
AHS Mole says
Sandy just questioning because I am “in the know,” is your daughter sure it was history the teacher missed because I know for a fact that no History teachers in the AHS building coach soccer. Unless it was LICW then it had to be another class.
Also it is true that AHS students may get out early for swin practice. They get out once every two weeks or so 10 minutes before the bell rings. They miss very little class for swimming. Maybe 30-50 minutes a season.
AHS Mole, No, it wasn’t a history teacher at AHS. I do have a daughter there at the SMA, I’m talking about a history teacher at the school that was our home school, before we were redistricted. This was my daughter who is in her 2nd year of college.
What does Cdev do for a living? Education related?
Read! as I have said before I used to teach HS in PG county. Now I work for a private educational institute offering services to special education students. The kids I work with are the ones school systems place in non-public placements because they can not provide the appropriate educational enviornment needed for them to be educated. So yes education related. Again I have said this before.
School systems have gotten much stricter on how much time kids can miss from class. Some instances are out of control. No one can control darkeness, and not all athletic fields have lights. The county can’t afford endless buses, so most teams will be dismissed between 1:30 and 1:45. Now when you look at sports like soccer, football, lacrosse, softball, basketball, and swimming most games will start around 4 pm or later those days they will miss no school. Other sports like cross country, golf, field hockey, and track may have to start at 3:30 which may require the kids to leave a little early.
The playoffs are when kids seem to miss more, but now you are traveling out of the county.
What I think is funny is that this turned to anit-athletic arguement, but what about field trips? I know they are school related. Are you saying that because a student is going to the planetarium, it is ok for them to miss full periods of all of their other classes?
I am not the one argueing that HS sports are bad in anyway. You are correct the MPSSAA has instituted rules about time away and out of class. It used to be much worse!
hssportsfan, actually, my daughter skips most of the fieldtrips that are not SMA related. When she is one of only 2-3 kids who miss those classes it is too hard to make up the work. If it’s an SMA trip then it isn’t too bad because then most of the kids will also miss.
Ryan Burbey says
All of this debate is wonderful but please come out to the County budget meetings this week and speak your mind. Don’t allow your children’s teachers to fall victim to coproate greed, misallocation, waste and poor fiscal management.
“Corporate greed” Who do you think employs the parents of these school children? These corporate employees also pay the taxes that allow the wasteful public school systems to operate.
Many of the teachers pay taxes in Harford County too!
True, they do pay taxes on their 40K to 100K salaried 10 month jobs. Pretty good if you ask me. Shouldn’t some people be thankful they have jobs???
Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure no one has a 10-month job and makes 100K in HCPS.
Chai tea Party Member says
There are NO TEACHERS with 100K salary. To have one of those you must be at least a Principal (not an Assistant Principal) or Instructional Facilitator or above. All 12 month employees.
I’m not sure what teachers top out at, but I know that mother in law who’s been teaching for over 40 years is no where near $100k/year.
I don’t think a teacher at the top step of the pay scale, master’s degree, master’s +30, department chair, coach, senior class adviser, and working every single extra duty possible would even be close to $100k/year (and I doubt there is even one teacher in Harford County who falls in the category I just described.)
Sure, most of them are thankful to have jobs, but that doesn’t mean they like getting screwed over again or that they should just take it…especially given some of the other stuff happening recently.
By not addressing the structural deficiencies and ongoing waste in the school system, you get people involved in class warfare. That is what this seems like to me. I do not understand why we have so many “teachers” in administrative positions like Instructional Facilitators and Teacher Mentors, Teacher Specialists, etc. They have no plans to put any of those individuals back in the classroom. Plus all of the new school construction includes “offices” for all of these positions – more money.