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Parents push for full-time assistant principals


Upgrading part-time assistant principals to full-time status so that they can focus on administrative duties should be a priority when the County Council considers the education budget, some Harford parents say.

The dual role of teacher and administrator, they contend, is inefficient and results in neither responsibility being fully met.

Robert Hickey, vice president of the PTA of Deerfield Elementary in Edgewood, asked the council to restore money to the school board's operating budget so the 11 part-time assistant principals could be upgraded.

Speaking Thursday night at the council's first public hearing on the county budget at Havre de Grace High School, Mr. Hickey, and several other parents, said the county does not spend enough money on school administration.

Theresa M. Pierno, a District C Democrat, and council President Jeffrey D. Wilson, have said upgrading the assistant principals is one of their priorities.

It would cost about $500,000 to upgrade the assistant principal slots.

The council, which has until May 31 to approve a budget, can amend the budget proposed by County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann

Mrs. Pierno said the council may want to gradually phase in the full-time assistant principals, starting with the most crowded schools, like Ring Factory Elementary in Bel Air, and the schools with large poor populations, like Magnolia Elementary.

"We are being quite vocal in making ourselves heard. This is our top priority," said Andre A. Fournier, president of Harford County Council of PTAs.

Parents want the part-time assistant principals made full-time for several reasons. Mr. Fournier, who has children at Magnolia Elementary and Magnolia Middle, said that asking assistant principals to teach a half-day and be administrators a half-day is impractical.

"This policy shortchanges the kids in the classroom, because they end up with two teachers each day. Also, the assistant principal never knows when he will be called out of the classroom to deal with . . . an emergency," he said.

Ellen Tracy, who was a part-time assistant principal for 2 1/2 years at Ring Factory, said the job makes almost impossible demands. "You're pulled between the needs of the 25 children you teach half-day and the needs of the 700 to 800 children at the school," she said.

Mrs. Tracy, now an elementary school supervisor, said she spent her time off trying to balance the needs of parents, teachers and the community while grading papers and preparing for lessons.

She said she was responsible for everything from scheduling community groups that wanted to use the building in the evenings and on weekends to calling parents when their children got in trouble.

At schools like Magnolia Elementary, which receives extra state and federal money because of the large number of low-income students, the demands on the part-time assistant principals are even greater, said Barbara Metzbower, president of the Magnolia Elementary PTA.

"We are asking the part-time assistant principals to coordinate these programs and keep track of our needy students," she said. Assistant principals are required to do the record-keeping for the free and reduced-price lunches and breakfasts, she said, noting that about 60 percent of the students get free or reduced-price lunches.

The school board had included money for the upgrade in its $169 million operating budget for fiscal 1994, which starts July 1. But the system said it can't afford to up grade now because it's not getting enough money from the county.

The school system, which had sought $91.4 million from the county, would receive about $87 million, an $11 million increase over current spending, under Mrs. Rehrmann's $162.8 million operating budget for fiscal 1994. The rest of the school system's budget comes from the federal and state governments and other sources.

"There is little, if any, money for upgrading the assistant principal positions," said Albert F. Seymour, spokesman for the county schools. Almost all the $11 million increase would go toward a $9.6 million wage package that includes a 3 percent cost of living raise, merit raises and Social Security payments.

The school system has also made a priority of hiring 16 art teachers so all elementary schools have art classes. The art teachers are expected to be hired in time for school in the fall, Mr. Seymour said. In all, 75 more teaching positions had been requested, but the system will probably be able to hire only 19 new teachers, including the art teachers, under the executive's

budget, Mr. Seymour said.

Other expenses include opening Fountain Green Elementary in Bel Air and Fallston Middle, and spending about $1 million for the first year of a five-year plan to integrate students with disabilities into regular classrooms, Mr. Seymour said.

The 11 schools where there are part-time assistant principals are: Bakerfield Elementary in Aberdeen, Bel Air Elementary, Deerfield Elementary in Edgewood, Jarrettsville Elementary, Joppatowne Elementary, Magnolia Elementary in Joppa, Meadowvale Elementary in Havre de Grace, North Bend Elementary in Jarrettsville, Ring Factory Elementary in Bel Air, Riverside Elementary in Joppa, and William S. James in Abingdon.

The school system had wanted to add a full-time assistant principal for Forest Hill Elementary School, which has never had an assistant principal, as well as Fountain Green Elementary in Bel Air which opens in the fall.

Fountain Green will probably get a part-time assistant principal. Forest Hill may continue to do without, Mr. Seymour said.

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