More Teaching Positions Needed to Keep Up with Growth in Anne Arundel County
Several classrooms will have more than 30 students. The school board also discussed the opening of new schools and the fate of high school gymnastics.
Schools will be open by this time next week, and more than 76,000 students of Anne Arundel County will be greeted by hundreds of new teachers when they return.
Superintendent Kevin Maxwell said at Wednesday's school board meeting that the 411 new teachers have been hired to replace outgoing educators since the school year ended in June. Furthermore, 15 new principals, and 42 new assistant principals will oversee schools this year.
These new hires were made without adding new salary positions. However, come budget season, Maxwell said the school system will likely be asking the county council to fund additional positions to keep up with student growth.
Maxwell said more than 3,000 students have been added over the last three years, and the school system has yet to ask for salaries for additional teachers. But that time is just about up.
“We’re probably at the limit of what we can do without adding positions,” he said. “We’re probably going to have to visit that at the end of the budget cycle this year. I don’t see any way around that.”
The student-to-teacher ratio has been expanding to where several classrooms have an average of more than 30 students. In order to combat that, new teachers will be needed.
Maxwell provided this briefing to the school board at the end of a comprehensive look at the coming school year.
New Schools Open Soon
Between school years, construction crews have been busy at 80 of the 121 school facilities. Among the biggest construction jobs were a new Germantown Elementary in Annapolis and Pershing Hill Elementary at Fort Meade.
Alex Szachnowicz, chief operating officer of the school system,gave the board an update on the scope of this year’s construction work.
“We’ve got a lot going on this year,” he said.
The new Germantown school will increase the student capacity by nearly 300, and increase the size of the facility by 35,000 square feet. Pershing Hill’s student capacity more than doubled, from 297 to 733, and the facility doubled its size to 87,000 square feet. Both are equipped with state-of-the-art technology, including interactive white boards in every classroom.
Ribbon cutting ceremonies for the two new schools will be held next week, just before school is set to begin.
This year will also see the opening of the West Meade Early Education Center, the school system’s second of its kind. Szachnowicz said among all the work done this year, this was the project he was most excited about.
“I’ve got a soft spot for the little guys and gals,” he said.
Human Resources Director Florie Bozella is working to fill all open teaching positions before the school year begins. There was a last-minute influx of students this summer, so there are still some gaps to fill as the days tick away. If need be, these positions will be filled with substitute teachers until a permanent solution can be found, Bozella said.
The school year officially begins on Tuesday, but some schools are starting a little later due to construction delays.
Gymnastics Saga Continues
Superintendent Maxwell again fielded questions from a parent over the cancellation of the gymnastics program this past budget year.
Patty Coleman asked the board about the reasons for the program’s cancellation. School officials had previously said that aging equipment was among the reasons, in addition to low membership numbers. Coleman said she believed of the 120 students involved in the program, there was more than enough support to keep it alive.
“We’re not sure it was [canceled] for valid reasons,” Coleman said.
Her daughter, Julie Coleman, also spoke at Wednesday’s meeting, saying students “were crushed” when they learned that their sport was being canceled.
However, Maxwell said the primary reason the program was canceled was that the number of teams had dwindled below the minimum threshold allowed for varsity sports. He said six teams is the minimum, but gymnastics had less than that countywide. There was also a shortage of competition in adjacent school districts, he said.
The aging equipment was not a primary concern, he said.
“If we had enough teams, we wouldn’t even be discussing the equipment,” Maxwell said.
Coleman said a former gymnastics coach has purchased a facility in Arnold and was outfitting it with newer equipment. She intends to bring in students and train them there, to get the wheels for the sport turning again.
She asked the board if that could jump-start the program back under the school system’s wing. But no board member made any motion regarding the item.
School Board Member Kevin Jackson said the country has an obesity problem, so it concerned him when he learned of an active program like gymnastics being canceled.
Assistant Superintendent George Arlotto said the program was not canceled haphazardly. He outlined the process by which they decided to cancel it, which involved a committee and a review with school principals, before reaching their conclusion.
“I don’t like the idea of canceling gymnastics, or any sport,” Arlotto said. “But we have a process here in Anne Arundel County.”