Primary teachers plead for more planning time; Union president says issue could 'tear system apart'


Angry and frustrated elementary school teachers pleaded last night with county education officials to give them enough lesson-planning time to do their jobs.

Teachers told school officials that unless money for sufficient planning time is restored in next year's operating budget, the quality of pupil instruction will suffer.

"That time was used by teachers to network with other teachers and plan jointly for the students they teach," said Ralph C. Blevins, president of the Carroll County Teachers Association. "It provides time to look past daily lesson planning and consider broader issues."

If the problem is not resolved satisfactorily, "it threatens to tear this school system apart," Blevins warned.

The topic dominated the discussion at a public hearing on the superintendent's proposed budget for next year, held at Elmer Wolfe Elementary School in Union Bridge.

Elementary planning time has surfaced as a budget issue this year because the Board of Education decided to eliminate the built-in lesson planning for elementary teachers from next year's school calendar.

The proposed budget includes seven teacher positions to restore part of the lost planning time. The $272,419 won't be used to hire seven teachers. Instead, elementary school principals could use the money to hire part-time employees to relieve classroom teachers to plan lessons.

Superintendent William H. Hyde pledged that the money is a priority and will remain in the budget. But teachers said the proposal falls short, providing only 15 minutes of planning time a week.

For the past few years, the school calendar included six late-start school days for planning time, but the board decided to remove the built-in planning time after several parents complained about late openings.

"Elementary teachers are angry and overworked," said Dave Anderson, a teacher at Freedom Elementary School. "The loss of two hours will definitely affect the quality of instruction for the children. The two-hour delay gave us a block of time to effectively plan for the children."

The forum was the first opportunity for residents to comment on Hyde's proposed $172 million operating budget for 1999-2000. He is seeking an 8 percent increase above this year's budget of $159 million. That amount is $3.4 million more than what the county commissioners have indicated they will contribute to the budget.

The school board will review the proposed budget and take public comment at two open hearings -- at 7 p.m. Feb. 8 at Linton Springs Elementary School and at 7 p.m. Feb. 22 at Westminster High School. The board is expected to adopt the budget after the final hearing.

Pub Date: 1/22/99

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