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October 8, 2009

The Good and The Helpful

Joan Marie Aquilino

The poor, picked on Frederick County Board of Education does something that appears to be a good idea and might actually help – and save money to boot – and here I go just raining on its parade. Before I tell you why, let me say I'm actually glad to hear of their plans. I also hope it catches on and becomes a norm for all administrative staff.


The positive cost saving idea I'm talking about is that the staff from the central office will be stepping back into classrooms on occasion to be substitute teachers. Getting back in the classroom and interacting with the children in a real life setting of what Frederick County Public Schools is all about, the children, the classroom and not just theories on a shelf. Bravo! This is real life thinking and doing for the best interest of the children.


Not even sure I'd be bringing this up except that the school board take every opportunity to blame the media, columnists, radio personalities, forums and the general public for attacking them. I don’t want the public who is voicing its discontent with and expecting accountability from this school board to lose focus. You obviously have the Board of Education’s attention. Now don’t lose it just because they’ve done one good thing.


Here are a couple excerpts from a Frederick News-Post forum (referenced by the school board in the past) approximately one month ago that might lead you to believe this wasn’t all its idea. For the entire conversation please follow this link to forum quotes.


1.)    From poster JMAM:


" . . . For me it goes back to the days when the money was flowing like water and the BOE sucked it dry even back then and now they feel no responsibility to help survive these times. You do not have a decrease in enrollment and an increase in budget with an attitude of being owed, being entitled and not expect people to question you. The BOE needs to adjust their standard of living just like the rest of the world around them.


Here's a thought, those in-service days, use admin./teacher staff to man the classrooms to keep children in school for full days. Perfect opportunity to stay in contact with the children. If the Sheriff can take a turn at filling a shift at the jail why can't the Superintendent teach a class. Seriously that would be wonderful for both the children and I'd hope for her too. She hired her staff, now she needs to trust her own judgment that they can do their jobs while she enjoys the reason she became an educator in the first place. . . . "


2.)    From poster MARYL:


 . . . I really like your post and those thoughts. I wanted to add a few thoughts, too. There are several ways that the BOE/FCPS could save money if they would just be creative enough and willing enough to do so.


I am not sure if they still have "permanent substitutes" in the schools, but at one time, a teacher was labeled the school "permanent substitute." In fact, an instructional aide could be one, as well. This was the first person called upon or reserved in advance if a substitute teacher was needed in a school....all day, half day, coverage for a regular teacher during ARD meetings, and any number of other reasons. This teacher or aide was always covering for someone. I thought it was a worthwhile position. All that to say, I agree with JMAM that Central Office Staff could and should get out of the office and into the classroom from time to time. Save some money in the hiring of substitute teachers. I wonder how much money we spend each day on substitute teachers in this county? I believe they get about $75 per day. And I think that instructional aides should be used as substitute teachers. Depending on their responsibilities for the day, why can't they stand in for a day in the classroom? Again, save some money by not hiring substitute teachers. . . "


The point I’m trying to make is this: if the school board would stop circling the wagons trying to protect itself and instead open up to listening, we will see a better end product for the children and isn’t that after all what it’s about, ‘the children.’ We struggle to teach our children to listen; maybe those in charge should learn the same lesson.


Another point of interest to keep on your radar screen when the ever popular, always entertaining, budget discussions begin between the Board of County Commissioners and the Board of Education. At a recent commissioners’ work session and then again at a school board hearing, the Parent Teacher Association asked that the commissioners and Board of Education have a budget committee so the budget battles could be talked through.


Where I have a problem in this particular incident is that I also witnessed both public comments and the tone and tenure were very different. The commissioners were taken to task with much finger wagging, as if all fault lies at their feet. The school board was asked politely to form a committee. If the end result is to communicate clearly and to resolve problems, then why present your request as if the fault lies in only one direction?


. . . .’til next time . . .


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