Lack of planning time is a problem, teachers say
Public hearings on construction plan scheduled for Thursday
Public school teachers throughout Montgomery County wore stickers Friday to raise residents' awareness about their lack of time to plan lessons for students.
The school system's $2.15 billion fiscal 2010 operating budget cuts back on planning periods for teachers. The current budget already eliminates much of the support staff teachers once had.
This is the second consecutive year the school system has scaled back on teachers' planning time. In fiscal 2009, several teachers sent letters to the school board asking them to reinstate planning periods.
"If I don't have planning time, then my classes won't be as tight," said Patrick McCann, a special-education teacher at Col. Zadok Magruder High School in Rockville. "Teachers need time to make sure their kids are able to be successful in class. We'd like to have some time to do our jobs."
McCann sits on the board of directors of the county teachers union. Union leaders are in contract negotiations and are focusing on better working conditions, because pay raises are not feasible, said McCann, who said he voted against teachers losing their COLAs for fiscal 2010, which began July 1.
At Magruder, only half of the teachers wore the stickers, McCann said. The rectangular sticker reads "Time for Success."
"Teachers know the reality of the budget," said Grant Goldstein, an English resource teacher at Magruder. "We're always taking extra work home. Collaboration can't be done unless we figure out how to get our jobs done."
The school system's reliance on technology is also a concern, as it takes longer to prepare for a class. For example, Goldstein said, he used to be able to transcribe notes onto a transparency sheet and put it on an overhead projector. Now, it takes an hour to prepare, he said.
Budget hearings coming up
The county school board will hold public hearings tonight and Thursday on Superintendent Jerry D. Weast's six-year, $1.49 billion construction plan, which includes a proposal to expand nine schools and build two new ones.
Weast's construction plan also includes a recommendation to close Monocacy Elementary School and merge it with Poolesville Elementary, but the school board must approve the action first.
The public hearings will take place at 7 p.m. both nights in Carver Educational Services Center's auditorium, 850 Hungerford Drive, in Rockville.
To testify, call the school board office at 301-279-3617. Additional written testimony/comments can be submitted to 850 Hungerford Drive, Suite 123, Rockville, MD 20850 or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The board will meet at 6 p.m. Nov. 19 to vote on school boundaries, the construction plan and a procedure to be used to review and act on Weast's recommendation to close Monocacy. The meeting is not to take final action on the school closure, according to school system information.
School calendar approved
The county school board has approved the calendar for the 20102011 school year.
The academic year begins Aug. 30, 2010, and ends June 16, 2011. Spring break runs from April 18 to April 26, 2011.
The school year includes 13 holidays, including the primary election Sept. 14 and the general election Nov. 2.
The school year is 184 instructional days, including four contingency days for emergency closings. Teachers have 193 duty days and 16 hours of unscheduled professional time.
Go to www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org and click on the link in the top left column to see the full calendar.
The school board was scheduled to approve its legislative agenda for its Annapolis delegation, but the vote came after The Gazette's deadline.
The agenda includes the school board's proposal to the state to boost the age at which students legally can drop out of school. Under state law, students can drop out at 16; the board wants the age raised to 18.
Go to www.gazette.net to read about the school board's vote on its legislative agenda.