Bold steps of Calvert County superintendent defying tradition


Calvert County schools Superintendent William J. Moloney has been in Maryland for only a year, but watch out! He's marching to a tune guaranteed to terrify defenders of the status quo.

In the past few weeks, Dr. Moloney has:

* Negotiated an unprecedented four-year contract with Calvert teachers with cost-of-living raises averaging 2.8 percent, a big cut in beginning teachers' pay and an increase in teachers' contributions to their health care coverage.

* Included in the contract a commitment from both the Calvert school board and the teachers to support the Maryland School Performance Program, much of which is opposed by the Calvert union's parent organization, the Maryland State Teachers Association (MSTA).

* But at the same time, ceded more authority to the teachers, giving them a two-thirds vote on newly formed School Planning Councils, an equal vote with principals on a districtwide Joint Professional Senate and a seat on the superintendent's Cabinet.

* Proposed that Calvert be the testing ground for statewide high school "exit examinations," tests that would be "comparable to the best European and Asian models."

Dr. Moloney is to appear before the state Board of Education today to make a pitch for the exit exams and to ask the board to waive some state requirements for Calvert while the district develops the plan.

"I'll have Karl Pence on my right side and Chris Cross on my left," said Dr. Moloney, referring to the president of the MSTA and the president of the state Board of Education. He'll also have on hand Adam Urbanski, a New York State teacher unionist and national leader in school reform.

All of this is unheard of in recent Maryland school history. It is as if Stuart Berger, the Baltimore County superintendent who seems to relish confrontations with the county teachers' union, had suddenly embraced TABCO, invited its leadership for drinks and opened his books to union inspection.

But "business as usual in education is over," Dr. Moloney said. "If we don't transform ourselves, someone else will do it for us. . . . The ties that bind management and teachers in education are infinitely stronger than those forces that draw us asunder."

For its part, the MSTA and its Calvert affiliate seem intrigued, if not thrilled, by Dr. Moloney's overtures. Mr. Pence has visited Calvert and talked with Dr. Moloney and members of his board. "I've been very impressed," he said. "I'll be there [today] to see what it's all about."

Charles K. Purcell, the MSTA's longtime regional representative in Calvert, said, "Moloney is very bright and has a lot of of new ideas. He doesn't seem afraid to share authority. Moloney says we'll do better if we work together."

Dr. Moloney said it was Maryland's school reform efforts that drew him to the Free State from Pennsylvania. He said no significant change in education, including the proposed high school exit exam, is possible without the cooperation of teachers, whose unions, he said, are much stronger in Europe and Japan than they are in the United States.

Certification bill

A bill before the General Assembly that would grant independence to the state's Professional Standards and Teacher Education Board would seem of interest only to scholars of arcana. But enactment of the bill, which has passed the Senate and is now before the House of Delegates, could spell the end of alternative certification programs that are now producing nearly a quarter of Baltimore City's new teachers.

The alternative route was opened four years ago by the state Board of Education over the objection of the educator-dominated professional standards board. Since then, more than 300 city teachers have been hired through the alternative programs, and their retention rate is better than that of teachers traditionally trained. Baltimore is the only jurisdiction in Maryland that has hired alternative teachers in significant numbers.

The largest of these efforts, the Resident Teacher Program (RTP), has 400 applicants this year for 60 openings in the fall. Based at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, the program, now in its third year, allows career-changers with college degrees to move into teaching without having to go through all of the hoops of traditional teacher education.

Two other programs, Teach for America and the Peace Corps Fellows program, based at Towson State University, send significant numbers of teachers into city classrooms through the alternative route.

Applicants still have to pass the National Teachers Examination, have good college grades, undergo rigorous screening and take at least 90 classroom hours of work before they teach (those in the RTP take 117 hours), but that may not be enough for the standards board, which is dominated by teachers and teacher educators. The bill now before the legislature would remove the state board's veto power over the standards board and give the latter its independence.

Linwood Roberts, director of employment for city schools, said Baltimore plans to employ about one-fifth of 500 new teachers next year through RTP and the other two programs. Many of the alternative candidates are military people adjusting to a peacetime economy, he said, and the average age is "around 35. Generally, they make good teachers. They're mature people who have seen something of the world."

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