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Howard school board hears pleas that it nullify many of Hickey's cuts


Parents, students and teachers overflowed the Howard County school board's 200-seat meeting room last night, urging the board to restore cuts made by the school superintendent in programs next year ranging from the Black Student Achievement Program and mathematics to sports.

The occasion was a public hearing on Superintendent Michael E. Hickey's $183.7 million operating budget proposal for 1992-1993.

PTA Council President Rosemary E. S. Mortimer said she sympathized with the hard choices the board has to make. "We talked about giving up our six minutes and getting down in front of the board on our knees and saying, 'Save what ever you can,' " she said.

Black Student Achievement Program advocate Charles H. Palmer Jr. asked the board to restore the one staff position Mr. Hickey targeted for elimination.

"There is simply no way that the two people who will be left after these cuts can provide credible service to the over 4,500 African-American students and their parents in the school system," he said.

Mathematics Advisory Council members asked the board to restore the mathematics resource teacher, one of four resource teacher positions scheduled for elimination in Mr. Hickey's budget.

His operating budget request is built on a combination of increases and cutbacks.

The superintendent added $8.5 million to accommodate the 1,500 new students expected to enter the county school system next fall and $1.7 million to replace worn-out equipment and make some building repairs.

But he held the overall budget increase to $7 million by cutting other areas.

The proposal calls for hiring 52 additional teachers to cover projected enrollment increases and staff the two additional schools opening next fall, but eliminating the three teachers who now provide special classes for gifted and talented first-graders.

Areas targeted for cuts include:

* Thirty-four positions, most of them in the school system's central administrative offices. Eliminating them would save $1.6 million.

* Sports events that would be shifted from evenings to afternoons to save on security guard costs and pay for coaching soccer and junior varsity football in August practice sessions, which would be eliminated. These measures would save $105,000.

* Schedule changes for school busing, saving $900,000.

The $183.7 million total does not include raises for school employees, who did not receive any pay increases this year after budget cuts left the school board without enough money to cover raises.

Teachers, whose contract called for a 6 percent salary increase and 2 percent experience increase, have protested the lack of raises by refusing to volunteer for after-school and evening tasks, such as chaperoning dances or sponsoring school clubs.

In 1992-1993, Mr. Hickey pledged, negotiated raises will be honored.

The board is currently negotiating salaries with school employee unions, and is expected to submit a supplemental budget request to County Executive Charles I. Ecker when agreements are reached.

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