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Annapolis teachers must reapply

Comments from Annie: Here is the ultimate tragedy all the way around. On one hand I am outraged that this newly hired Superintendent would make such a dramatic decision without even weighing in with his community, and on the other hand, I am eagerly awaiting a strong, powerful dissent from the teachers. I know there is shock, but where is their reaction?

It is not strong enough for the county teacher’s association president to mention the “challenge” of rehiring in the face of growing teacher vacancies. It is not strong at all for the association’s executive director to say that the superintendent has this discretionary option.

It is painful to read what this decision is doing to the teachers: 'Why try now? said Mat Miller, a social studies teacher who's been at the school for four years.” But for the devoted principal who has worked in this community for some 30 years, who has not decided whether to leave the field after this announcement, it is even more painful to hear him continue to pour his efforts into something as ill-conceived and futile as making AYP.

As always, the news will be filtered through a co-dependent relationship with the media, which traditionally does a better job at PR for the school administration than they deserve, but anyone who reads these articles of slanted loyalty should be able to determine the unfairness of such a decision.

I am looking for these teachers, and staff, all 193 of them, and their colleagues everywhere, and parents, and students, all fed up with this insanity, to join together and begin to fight this battle.

Apply here!

Annapolis teachers must reapply

By RYAN BAGWELL Staff Writer

A day after Annapolis High School employees were told they'll have to reapply for their jobs, the head of the county teachers' union said it will be tough to find enough teachers to fill dozens of vacancies the move will create.

With more than 700 teachers leaving the school system each year, union President Tim Mennuti said this morning that administrators won't have an easy time attracting enough educators to the struggling school.

"I think it's going to be a challenge, because the administration is looking for a number of things, and they have to figure out how to balance the requirements at Annapolis High School with the available staff," Mr. Mennuti said.

Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell announced the so-called "zero basing" initiative at a news conference yesterday, about an hour after telling the school's 193 employes about the move.

From teachers and administrators to aides and custodians, the superintendent said everyone at the only county high school that hasn't met state standards four years in a row will face a transfer to another building starting in the fall.

It's one of the few steps - and among the most drastic- the superintendent said he can take to avert a state takeover, which could happen to Annapolis next year if it doesn't meet standards on state tests.

"I want Anne Arundel County Public Schools, not the state of Maryland or anyone else, to control this school's destiny," he said.

Annapolis hasn't met state standards for four consecutive years, and has been placed on the state's "corrective action" list. That means the state could force its own reforms on the school if it doesn't make so-called "Adequate Yearly Progress" a fifth time.

The last school Anne Arundel zero-based was Van Bokkelen Elementary in the late 1990s, when only seven Van Bokkelen teachers chose to stay at the school, and one wanted to transfer in, Mr. Mennuti said.

In Baltimore County last year, where Lynn Whittington, now Anne Arundel's assistant superintendent for instructional services, worked, the school board made teachers reapply for their jobs at Woodlawn Middle School.

About 80 percent of Woodlawn's 112 staff members reportedly applied to stay.

Across the state, about 15 schools in Maryland have started some sort of alternative plan involving widespread staff changes.

Employees who aren't rehired at Annapolis will be transferred to other schools, not fired outright, Dr. Maxwell said. Current staff members will have a shot at their jobs before other teachers can apply.

Administrators said the move will weed out teachers and other staff members who aren't committed to the school's diverse enrollment.

Some parents think it's a good idea.

"I think the school system has not succeeded in engaging disadvantaged kids, and one of the first things that has to happen is you have to fill each school with teachers who are committed to all the kids who come to that school," said Steven H. Johnson, an Annapolis parent and education activist.

But some students said changing the staff won't help kids who refuse to learn.

"I just think that it's not really all the teachers' fault," said Sara Clow, an Annapolis freshman. "A lot of the students, I don't think they really try or care about it."

Rumors about zero-basing have flooded the hallways and teachers' lounges for weeks. But earlier this month the superintendent would only confirm that he was considering the move.

On Monday, he said plans for Annapolis High would be announced "soon."

Dr. Maxwell said he decided to zero-base the school on Tuesday.

Teachers' reactions to yesterday's announcement ranged from the shock of having their jobs in jeopardy to relief that rumors about their future were finally put to rest.

"It's one thing to have it be a possibility," said Phil Greenfield, a veteran teacher at the school. "It's another thing to hear it from the superintendent's mouth."

While schools can't fire teachers easily, the superintendent has broad discretion to transfer them to other schools, said Bill Jones, the union's executive director.

Dr. Maxwell told Annapolis employees just after coming from a State House meeting to ask for school construction money.

"I think people appreciated the superintendent coming in and putting rumors to rest," he said.

But others said the move will bring "turmoil" to a school whose teachers are trying their hardest to boost state test scores to standards this year.

"I just kind of heard in the copy room, 'Why try now?' " said Mat Miller, a social studies teacher who's been at the school for four years.

Dr. Maxwell plans to decide Principal Donald Lilley's fate by Feb. 21.

Even if he's not chosen to lead the school next year, Mr. Lilley and the rest of his staff members will stay on the job until at least the end of this school year.

And while he said he was surprised by the news, he urged Annapolis High employees to focus on students' progress.

"I want to challenge everyone in the school to continue what we're doing," Mr. Lilley said. "We have AYP to make this year. That's going to be my focus."

Mr. Lilley said he hasn't decided whether he'll reapply.

Students yesterday even shouldered some of the blame for the announcement.

"It's sad because they have to leave because of what we're doing," said Jessica Velasquez, an Annapolis junior who hopes her favorite Spanish teacher, Milagros Cancel, won't leave.

— Ryan Bagwell
The Capital, Annapolis, Md.


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