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Harford school leaders working to find spots for 18 teachers whose jobs are to be eliminated

Eighteen people who hold one of the 84.5 Harford County teaching positions proposed to be eliminated next school year as a cost-savings measure don’t have another job within the school system to move into, the superintendent said Monday.

While the 18 people don’t have the necessary certifications to fill one of the 60 vacancies throughout Harford County Public Schools, Superintendent Sean Bulson said he would work with those teachers to keep them in the school system and get them certified — if they so choose.

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“Our goal is to be able to offer them a position even though we know it’s not an ideal fit,” Bulson said. “I believe we will be at a place where every individual who wants to remain working in Harford County, though the circumstances are certainly not ideal, they will be offered some kind of position.”

As Bulson updated the school board on the budget at Monday’s meeting, several board members made final pleas with the Harford County Council for additional money to cut fewer teachers.

“When you take into account the revenue surplus over three years that could have gone to the schools, it’s $58 million, we’re asking for $5 million,” board member Nancy Reynolds said, citing surpluses of county funds. “That is my final plea, all we’re asking is for $5 million additional so we don’t have to make as severe cuts that we’re scheduled to make at the moment.”

The school system has submitted a $472.7 million budget for FY2020; Harford County Executive Barry Glassman has introduced a budget that provides the school system $256.4 million, a $10.7 million increase over last year’s budget but $5 million below the $15 million increase requested in county funding. The state has budgeted about $207.4 million for Harford schools in the coming fiscal year.

Regarding the 18 people without positions, one possibility is to allow teachers to work on a conditional certification for up to two years while the school system pays for the teacher’s certification in a new area, or one that’s close to their existing certification, Bulson said.

As of Monday’s meeting, the school system had 42 vacancies, he said.

Prefacing his comment that everything is fluid and could change day-by-day as retirements or resignations are announced, or once the Harford County Council and Harford Board of Education finalize next year’s budgets, Bulson said teachers are being notified this week of their positions for next year.

“We’re doing communications in a manner that people, knowing things aren’t final until they’re final, we want to give them a heads up so they understand where they will be assigned,” Bulson said.

Human resources staff went through an extensive process of looking at certifications and even home addresses to find the best fits for the teachers whose positions were eliminated, he said.

Teachers who choose not to accept the reassignments or who don’t want to become certified in another area will be put on the recall list, per their Harford County Education Association agreement. If a position comes up in their area, those teachers are entitled to first choice for up to two years.

The Harford County Council has held two public hearings on the budget, during which many people have pleaded with the council to fund the $5 million difference between what the school board requested and what Glassman funded.

If any council members have amendments they’d like to make to the budget, they could be introduced at Tuesday’s council meeting. The council has to pass the budget by June 15; after that, the board of education can adopt its final budget.

Budget talk

Reynolds, who spoke at a budget hearing before the Harford County Council, said the outpouring of support from the community regarding the budget has been “tremendous.”

“It’s a hard time, everybody is emotional about the budget,” she said. “I’m overwhelmed by the fact that they’ve studied the budget, not only ours, but the county’s.”

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Once this year’s budget process plays out, board vice president Laura Runyeon said her hope is the budget discussions continue.

Though her term ends June 30, she has some ideas she will continue to advocate for, including eliminating the 50-50 split of the county’s transfer tax revenues to school construction and ag preservation.

“We met our ag preservation goal in this county and I advocate for a change,” Runyeon said.

She would also like to look at how the wealth formula “inappropriately affects” Harford County and at who should have the power over the school system’s budget.

“We should look at where we think the power should be within the budget locally and whether the powers given to the council are appropriate or should be expanded,” Runyeon said, “particularly to allow the council to be able to move unrestricted fund balance should they see fit.”

She, too, has been overwhelmed at the interest in the budget this year.

“We will all have very, very strong opinions about how our tax dollars are spent, but we should be able to have a civil discourse on that topic,” Runyeon said.

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