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Teachers' planning time discussed; Board eliminated time from calendar for next year


How to provide adequate lesson planning time for Carroll County's elementary teachers dominated the discussion last night at the first town meeting held by school Superintendent William H. Hyde.

The topic has surfaced as a controversial issue in the past two months after the Board of Education decided to eliminate built-in time for lesson planning from next year's school calendar.

The time is being provided, as in previous years, by starting school late -- six days this academic year.

"What everyone wants is quality education for our children, but if we as teachers don't have the time to prepare," the quality of instruction will suffer, said Karen Conley, a teacher at Carrolltowne Elementary School.

Conley was among the 50 or so people who attended the meeting at Liberty High School.

Hyde acknowledged that the issue of planning time for elementary teachers is a critical one.

"The task we're facing is a monstrous one. It's bigger than two-hour late starts and bigger than teachers being over- loaded," Hyde said. "We're working intensively with teachers to try to determine what's essential in the curriculum and what you can walk away from."

Carrolltowne Principal Martin Tierney said the blocks in the school calendar allowed teachers enough time to collaborate across grades and subjects.

Teachers have shorter blocks of planning time during the school day, but interruptions are frequent. And even with the two-hour planning sessions on late days, teachers say they still need to plan lessons on their own time to meet the workload.

"Teachers spend one to two hours every night grading papers, planning lessons and calling parents," Conley said. "I know I get very emotional about this, but when I heard this time was taken away I was in shock."

The board decided to remove the built-in planning time because members said it was cutting into prime instructional time for students. Hyde's proposed operating budget for next year includes $272,000 to restore the lost planning time by hiring part-time employees to relieve classroom teachers.

Teachers have criticized the proposal because it provides only 15 minutes of planning time a week.

"The point has come in Carroll County where classroom teachers can't effectively function unless they have enough planning time," said Harold Fox, Maryland State Teachers Association unit director for Carroll County. "I urge the school board to re-evaluate its decision and find a way to make the teacher whole again."

Some proposed solutions to the planning time issue include adding days to the school year, paying teachers to stay after school and hiring more staff to relieve teachers.

Hyde plans town meetings in the north and northwest areas of the county.

"We may have different issues in different parts of the county," said school board President Gary Bauer. "That's what we want to try to find out."

Pub Date: 2/03/99

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