School board listens to ideas; Budget hearing focuses on class size, salaries and need for trainers


Armed with detailed reports and visual aids, dozens of educators and parents lobbied the Howard County school board last night to support new initiatives in next year's operating budget.

More than 50 people signed up to speak at the public hearing on school Superintendent Michael E. Hickey's proposed budget of nearly $293 million for the next academic year.

The requests of parents and educators included cutting class sizes, hiring certified trainers for student athletes and salary increases for teachers.

The budget request does not include employee salary increases because contract negotiations are not finished.

But some speakers said that Howard County's teacher salaries are lower than those in neighboring school districts.

"I feel that [teachers] are grossly underpaid," said Beverly Riling, a parent and member of the county's Math Advisory Committee. "If our salaries cannot compete with other counties, how can we expect to hire the best teachers? We are losing qualified candidates to other counties and private industry."

Many want smaller classes

There was wide support for the plan to cut class sizes. Hickey has said that the school system will reduce the student-teacher ratio to 19-to-1 in the county's nine focus schools and eight others.

Jan Keister, president of the Atholton Elementary School PTA, said cutting class size is "of extreme importance. In smaller classes, the benefits are many for all the students, no matter where they fall in their performance level."

Jeannie McMann, president of the Bushy Park Elementary School PTA, said that some second-grade classes have grown to more than 29 students.

Christine Pick, president of the Deep Run Elementary School PTA, said her son, Alexander, made great progress in a small reading group. But his progress in his second-grade math class, which has almost 30 students, has been slower, she said.

"By reducing the size of the classroom, you allow the teachers to do a better job," she said.

Pleas for smaller classes also came from parents and teachers at secondary schools.

Bob Siskind, a science teacher at Long Reach High School, said some students are "elbow to elbow" and "back to back" in lab classes. He said that he would "buy my own chalk" if the board could find a way to improve the staffing situation.

Athletic injuries a concern

The board heard from members of the Interscholastic Athletic Advisory Committee, who asked for certified trainers for student athletes at each high school during games and practices.

Jerry Yetter, president of the IAAC, said trainers would provide crucial assistance for the county's 6,600 school athletes should they be injured. The school system now has two trainers who rotate among the schools on a part-time basis.

Kim Bosley, one of the trainers, said she is often paged or called at home when problems occur.

"At 2: 30 p.m., the student-athletes hit the mat, tracks and courts, and there is no medical coverage," said Willa Brown, past president of the Howard County School Health Council. "Coaches are not qualified, nor do they have time to give for the injured athlete."

The school board will conduct budget work sessions Tuesday, Thursday and Feb. 16. Members will approve a budget proposal Feb. 23 and submit it to County Executive James N. Robey on March 15.

Pub Date: 2/05/99

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