Parents, students plead for school spending


The Anne Arundel school board heard appeals for renovations, updated libraries and computer training for teachers last night in the public's first chance to comment on the interim school superintendent's proposed $414.6 million operating budget.

One plea came from a fifth-grader at Pasadena Elementary, after several parents testified to the school's need for inclusion on the list for renovation.

With just a few glances at his written statement, young Matthew Clark politely complained of the conditions at the 40-year-old Pasadena Elementary.

"We have a makeshift media center," he said. "The electrical capacity prevents the use of equipment by one teacher at the same time another teacher is using other equipment. And I'm disappointed that it's not air-conditioned.

"Sometimes the temperature in the classroom gets above 100 degrees, and it's difficult to concentrate. I'm going to middle school next year, but I'm still concerned about Pasadena Elementary because my younger brother will still be there. Please don't let Pasadena get lost in the shuffle."

Parents testified that South Shore and Benfield elementaries need renovation, Central Middle School needs new furniture, and Waugh Chapel Elementary needs a copier to replace an ailing ditto machine.

Two renovation projects are to start July 1, when planning for six others is also scheduled. Barbara Church, the mother of a Central Middle School sixth-grader, complained of outdated materials -- like a filmstrip saying "China was the third-largest land mass compared to Canada and the Soviet Union," not taking into account the latter's breakup.

"In another film -- clearly from the 1950s -- they said they did not know the basis of heart disease. The school's encyclopedias were published in 1988 -- that's old by my standards," she said.

Even Bell Hartnack, who came to testify on behalf of the Shadyside Elementary School PTA and Citizens Advisory Council, told the board that the Central Middle School library's needs should be addressed "above everything else here."

After any adjustments resulting from public comment, Interim Superintendent Carol S. Parham's proposed operating budget, along with a separate $84.8 million capital budget request -- must be sent to the county executive by March 1.

The operating budget calls for hiring five new bus drivers, 51 new teachers and 43 special education teachers. All employees would get a 4 percent raise in July, when the new budget will take effect.

Board members have said they will fight to be sure money is included in the budget to cover the raises, which settled a dispute with labor unions last fall.

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