Kenwood High School principal Paul Martin knows he is going to have to make due with fewer teachers next school year. Just how many teachers he will lose is yet to be determined.
In the Baltimore County school board’s $1.6 billion budget for the 2012 fiscal year, a total of 196 teaching positions were to be left vacant. The county school system has stressed there will be no teaching layoffs; the vacancies will come through attrition, ranging from retirements to those leaving the system for other jobs.
However, while teachers are guaranteed a job, what schools those jobs will be at remains a question for many educators. Certain teachers could be excessed, meaning they will be transferred to vacant positions throughout the county once final staffing decisions are determined.
Area schools are exploring what options are available to them, including the possibility of reducing the number of available Advanced Placement classes, eliminating other classes and even encouraging some students to take certain classes through the Community College of Baltimore County.
“We’re going to make the best of what we’re afforded,” Martin said. “We’re going to have larger class sizes and we’re going to have to deal with that.”
According to figures released by the Teachers Association of Baltimore County (TABCO), Kenwood’s staff would be reduced by 15 faculty members, although Martin is bracing for a loss of up to 20 teachers. Martin said the larger schools in the county are expected to be hit the hardest. Kenwood has a student population of 1,762 students with a capacity to hold 1,918. The Essex campus is also home to 132 teachers.
TABCO also projects that among other Essex schools, Eastern Tech will have 7.5 positions cut while Chesapeake will lose 6.5. Cheryl Bost, TABCO president, said recently she is concerned about projected staffing numbers for next year, which she said would increase average class sizes from 26 t0 29 students.
"All of the proposed cuts are coming from teachers, not administrators, and that is an unbalanced approach to dealing with the budget," Bost said. "Schools are going to have to deal with a dramatic increase in class sizes."
Bost said she also questions the hiring of Renee Foose, who will begin her job as the county's deputy superintendent next month, at a salary of $214,000 a year.
"That position was vacant for six months," Bost said. "I don't understand the timing of the hiring when teachers are being asked to do more with less."
Baltimore County Public Schools spokesman Charles Herndon wrote in an e-mail that there are several facts to keep in mind when examining the school system’s proposed FY 2012 operating budget, which includes funding for more than 8,500 teachers. Among those facts are:
- All teachers will continue to be employed…no layoffs or furloughs.
- Eligible teachers will receive step pay increases.
- Annually, principals plan for their staffing needs according to student enrollment. The process will not be completed until school opens in August. (Staffing is formula-based depending on the number of students.)
- Enrollment trends, summer school outcomes, retirements and resignations are factors that are considered by school administrators in staffing changes.
- Advanced Placement courses will remain a priority for the school system.
Kenwood health science teacher and magnet coordinator Jennifer Barrett said considering the current economic hardships facing governments at all levels, the potential cuts among Baltimore County schools could be much worse.
“The good news is that everyone is guaranteed a job next school year,” Barrett said. “Everyone continues to do their job and pursue excellence in education. Whatever happens because of these cuts, we are up to the challenge of educating our students.”