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Ecker reorganizes staff in schools' central office


Carroll County interim Superintendent Charles I. Ecker announced yesterday a reorganization of the school system's administrative staff, a move that he said will improve the continuity of education throughout a student's 13 years of schooling.

"I believe in a K to 12 curriculum and I don't think we have that right now," Ecker said yesterday. "There's a disconnect between elementary and secondary [education] and I think we need to get it together, line it up and try to get a continuous, coordinated curriculum."

Some of Ecker's shuffling of the instructional side of the central office amounts to rolling back changes made by former Superintendent William H. Hyde, who was appointed to a four-year term in July 1998 but quit last summer to take a job in Montana.

Ecker will hire a director of elementary schools - a position that Hyde eliminated after he was appointed - and he will reassign the four employees left in Hyde's much-debated continuous improvement unit.

Ecker had converted three vacancies from that team into six teaching positions, and revoked five directorships awarded to elementary supervisors by Hyde before he left - a personnel change blamed for low staff morale and complaints of cronyism.

The schools chief also will hire a director of quality assurance, a new $70,000-a-year post that will report directly to him and help make the school system more efficient and effective. He described the post as "a little broader" than the internal auditor position recommended by the firm that is working on the school system's performance audit and the grand jury that investigated possible mismanagement of the schools.

Yesterday's announcement should quiet speculation among school employees, who have been theorizing for weeks about what major changes Ecker might unveil. Recent announcements that both assistant superintendents will retire June 30 have fueled the scuttlebutt.

"I was expecting people to be named" to new appointments, said Cindy Cummings, president of the local teachers union, "but so far nothing has happened. People were buzzing [Wednesday] trying to anticipate what was coming."

Ecker acknowledged the guesswork yesterday, saying, "I know there are a lot of rumors out there about who's going to get this job or that job, but we need to advertise those positions."

He characterized the personnel changes as a realignment of the instructional side of the central office. The departments on the administrative side were not affected.

"It's my way of trying to get an organization that will be able to deliver instruction in the classroom easier. ... These seem minor but to the people involved they are major." Teachers can expect more help and more mentorship opportunities, Ecker said. Staff development will be organized under one director instead of three departments. Students eventually will experience a streamlined curriculum in which coursework naturally flows from elementary to middle to high schools.

Cummings, of the Carroll County Education Association, said the changes will likely be welcome to teachers.

"I agree with him that the supervisors should be there to mentor teachers - new teachers and teachers who are struggling and need help," she said. "That's one of the reasons young people leave the teaching field - because they don't receive the support they need. The first year of teaching can be like throwing someone in shark-infested waters on their own and without any life jackets.

"Not that kids are like sharks," she added, "but your first year can be pretty sink-or-swim."

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