Teachers, students, schedules
In preparation for the Carroll County Board of Education's regular meeting of Dec. 9, 1998, I carefully considered the instructional needs of elementary school students vs. the planning needs of elementary school teachers.
I concluded that the instructional needs of students outweigh the planning needs of teachers and that the board erred a couple of years ago by trying to address the planning needs of teachers via numerous two-hour late openings for elementary schools.
Although I firmly believe that even with the late openings elementary school teachers suffered from too little planning time, I likewise believe that elementary students suffered an injustice when their total instruction time was reduced. Moreover, the student injustice was compounded by two-hour early dismissals that were added to the calendar to eliminate the instructional time disparity between morning and afternoon kindergarten students caused by the late openings.
After the Board of Education unanimously rejected the 1999-2000 student calendar recommended by the superintendent, it directed the superintendent to develop a new 1999-2000 calendar without two-hour late openings or early dismissals.
Furthermore, the board directed the superintendent to meet with elementary teachers to investigate ways to provide teachers with sufficient planning time. One solution is contained in the superintendent's proposed operating budget for 1999-2000: Seven new teaching positions address the planning issue.
Everyone involved with public education agrees that teachers today are faced with far more complicated and time-consuming tasks than teachers of, say, 20 years ago. Nevertheless, little has been done to provide teachers, especially elementary teachers, with sufficient planning time to effectively address the educational needs of their students.
With the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program scores of Carroll County students leveling off, with the persuasive evidence that student performance is directly related to the amount of time on task, with the overwhelming need for collaborative effects by teachers, and with teachers being assigned an increasing number of documentation tasks, it is time for profound, systemic changes in how Carroll County public schools addresses the issue of elementary-teacher planning time.
Given that there is no time available in the proposed 1999-2000 student calendar for additional elementary planning time and that there is no time available in the existing elementary teacher work year, it may be time need to increas both.
If the student calendar was lengthened by five days without increasing the number of days students attend school, and if the work year for elementary teachers was increased by five days (with pay, of course), it would be possible to strategically place the five "new" elementary teacher planning days throughout the school year.
This would achieve the duel objective of not reducing student instructional time and of providing elementary teachers with more than 35 hours of additional planning time.
While some elementary teachers will object to working an additional five days, it is worth remembering that most people work well in excess of the 190 days a year that Carroll County teachers presently work.
In closing, let me share thoughts that were shared with me by a recently hired Carroll County elementary teacher:
"I have come to the conclusion that this job requires more time than the contract allots.
"It is not humanly possible for me to get done all that needs to get done between the hours of 7: 30 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. It can't be done.
"My contract does not take into consideration the actual responsibilities of my job.
"The job forces me to do certain things regardless of whether or not my contract allots enough time to get them done.
"To my dismay, I see that the quiet life of the teacher which I had envisioned becoming an unattainable goal, a mere apparition. And in realizing this, I have struggled with my doubts. Is this job one that demands too much for what it returns? Does it make sense for me to be doing this? Is it worth it to put this much time in for so little money?"
We are at a crossroads in public education in Carroll County. Either we can improve the framework from which we deliver student instruction by significantly changing the way we do business or we can merely shuffle the deck chairs on what could become a Titanic rooted in resistance to change and fear of the unknown.
C. Scott Stone
The writer is a member of the Carroll County Board of Education.
Bog turtle uncovers Gourge's insensitivity
I am responding to comments made by Carroll County Commissioner Julia Gouge in a Jan. 14 article about bog turtles and the proposed Hampstead bypass ("Tiny turtle slows bypass in Carroll").
If the quotes attributed to Ms. Gouge are correct, she hasn't read much about urban sprawl, its causes and effects.
She also appears to be unconcerned about whose reputation she smears, insensitive about leaving natural resources for her descendants to enjoy and apparently above the law.Mrs. Gouge states that the proposed bypass should not take a back seat to the bog turtle, a federally endangered species.
It would appear that Ms. Gouge is unfamiliar with the dozens of examples around the country that demonstrate that new roads, even limited access highways, spur new development -- and create even more of the traffic and safety problems that are the crux of her argument to dispose of the evil turtles and save the humans.
Perhaps she is now feeling guilty for not having taken a more active role in limiting development in the Hampstead-Manchester area during her previous stint as Carroll County commissioner?
Mrs. Gouge also takes a pot shot at Dr. James Howard and his graduate student, accusing them of being concerned only with "funding whatever study promotes themselves."
The vast majority of biologists, including Dr. Howard and his team, whom I know personally, are not in it for the money or the glory. They chose their field because of a fascination with the living world. They realize that our living heritage is being squandered at a phenomenal rate, leaving our children a far less enjoyable and stable world.
I suggest that she spend a year in the field with Dr. Howard, reveling in the glamour of being a biologist. Don't forget the mosquito repellent. At any rate, she should issue an apology to Dr. Howard and Frostburg State University.
The commissioner also seems to be willing to defy federal law (and encourage others to do so) by suggesting selling bog turtles on the black market or serving them as soup.
Lots of people do care about protecting our living heritage, including species on the brink of extinction.
They care because balanced ecosystems produce goods and services for our use far better than disturbed systems that no longer support rare species.
They care because they want to reserve their right to observe and enjoy rare plants and animals in a place other than the zoo or on an old National Geographic video.
They care because their Creator appointed them as caretakers of the planet.
Don't believe me? Visit a classroom in Carroll or Baltimore County and ask some students what they think. Thanks to some excellent teachers, students are being taught the vital link between healthy, intact ecosystems and our survival.
Does their vote not count because they are too young to vote in the next election?
After all, it's really their world and their turtles that Dr. Howard and colleagues seek to protect.
Paul Kazyak Westminster
The writer is an aquatic scientist and an instructor at Johns Hopkins University.
Pub Date: 1/31/99