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County readies new teachers

The Baltimore Sun

Michael McCroy plans to make a career in the Howard County public school system.

The social studies teacher, who has eight years of teaching experience, has yet to receive his school assignment but is eager to make an impact at his new school - wherever it may be - and to move up the ranks into administration.

McCroy and 327 other new employees descended on Reservoir High School this week for Howard County's annual new-teacher orientation. The four-day event is an opportunity for new teachers to learn the rules and procedures of the school system. It also is an opportunity for the new recruits to visit their home schools.

"I'm excited about the new challenge that I'm going to be faced with," said McCroy, who recently received a post-graduate certificate in administration management from the Johns Hopkins University. "Even though I've been teaching eight years, I'm a new teacher here."

Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin said it is important for new employees to go through the orientation process.

"We set aside this time so we can help new teachers make the transition to the county as seamless as we can," he said. "We want to make sure that they understand the community and the expectations that we have for students in this community. This is an important time for our new teachers. We want to give them the resources they need to be successful."

Enthusiastic teachers such as McCroy soaked it all in, and were eager for the school year to start.

"I'm excited because I will have a chance to learn and perfect my craft," McCroy said. "In Baltimore City, I had a lot more disciplinary issues that had to be addressed. I'm excited to be in an environment where discipline [issues] won't be as prevalent."

In addition to becoming acquainted with a slew of policies and procedures, new employees will learn how to spot signs of depression, bullying and abuse. They also will learn the appropriate way to interact with students, a skill that was emphasized last year after the arrest of three county teachers who were charged with engaging in inappropriate sexual contact with students. One of the highlights of the orientation will take place today, when top-ranking school officials, including Cousin, plan to serve lunch to teachers during an event called "We Are Here to Serve You." Tomorrow, the teachers will report to their assigned schools. A fashion show will be held today; new employees will learn how to purchase proper work attire on a shoestring budget.

Ann DeLacy, president of the Howard County Education Association, said orientation gives new teachers a "snapshot" of the school system.

"It gives them an awareness of what is going on," she said as she prepared to recruit new members for her association.

School board Chairman Frank Aquino attended the start of the orientation with Vice Chairman Ellen Flynn Giles and board member Sandra H. French.

Giles said she was impressed with keynote speaker Harry K. Wong, who spoke to the new employees about classroom organization.

"This sets the tone for the year," she said. "You only get one chance to make a first impression."

Ashley Harrington, a second-year guidance counselor at Homewood School, fielded questions from first-year counselors.

"The first year is difficult. Every school is different," said Harrington. "You have to learn how to adjust to that staff. You have to fit into the program."

The school system needed to fill 15 positions at the start of the orientation, according to Ernesto Diaz, manager of teacher recruitment and retention for the school system.

"We don't expect to be short by the start of school [on Aug. 25]," he said. "For us, the critical day is the first day for students. We will close that gap."

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