A new study of Carroll County public school employees describes a graying work force that could leave the district lacking in experience as more and more of its senior staff members retire.
The report that will be presented to the school board today found that 60 percent of school principals, assistant principals and central office administrators are age 50 or older.
"The most alarming trend is age," said Stephen Guthrie, the school system's assistant superintendent of administration. "We don't seem to be replacing administrators with younger administrators. We're replacing them with people of similar age or just a little younger."
While the greatest percentage (47 percent) of school administrators five years ago was in the 40-49 age group, this year's largest group (56 percent) is age 50 to 59. Add the 4 percent of administrators who are age 60 or older, and the number rises to 60 percent.
"That's of real concern," Guthrie added, "because those people are of retirement age."
The district could, within a matter of years, lose decades' worth of experience as longtime school principals and senior administrators in the superintendent's Cabinet leave the school system, Guthrie said.
The study of the Carroll public schools' work force also found that women continue to dominate -23 percent of the 2,800 public school employees are men - and that more have climbed the ladder into the administrative ranks. Ninety, or 61 percent, of this year's administrators are women compared with 70, or 54 percent, five years ago.
The school system has increased the number of minority employees by 72 percent, the report indicates. That gain - from 50 minority employees in 1998 to 86 this year - nudged the schools' percentage of minority staff members from 1.8 percent of all employees to 2.7 percent.
Guthrie said the system has set a goal of mirroring the percentage of minority residents in Carroll County in its work force. According to the 2000 Census, about 4.3 percent of Carroll residents were minorities. Slightly less than 5 percent of the school district's 28,000 students are not white.
The graying of the administrative ranks, however, remains the greatest concern, Guthrie said.
"It's not surprising. It's not anything that happened overnight. It's something we've been tracking ... for a long time," he said. "But it becomes more black and white when we look at this report."
Five years ago, 43 percent of Carroll County's school administrators were age 50 or older. As those jobs have grown more complicated - and salaries have not kept pace with the complexities and work hours - school districts have struggled to fill openings in their top-ranking jobs, Guthrie said.
"We need to look at the job. How can we make it more attractive? We need to look at salaries. How can we make adjustments where we need to? And we need to look at how we're organized," he added, noting that Carroll consistently ranks poorly in student-employee ratios among Maryland's 24 school districts.