More than 100 Arlinton County teachers, most of them concerned about salaries, packed a 90 minute public hearing last week to urge the school board to approve salary increases commensurate with the current 6 per cent inflation rate.
Although most teachers did not cite a specific percentage, virtually all decried last year's 2 per cent salary increases which were part of a tight $45.3 million budget approved last spring by the county board. At a school board meeting last June, when the board voted unanimously to grant the 2 per cent increases, 400 angry teachers hissed, booed and walked out in disgust, calling the raises a "a slap in the face."
Last week the county board passed a $46 million budget guideline a rough figure which officials will use in preparing the 1978-79 school budget to the adopted by the county board in May.
Close to $10 million of that will come from state and federal funds. a motion by vice chaiman John W. Purdy for a higher guideline was defeated 3 to 1. Purdy is a former attorney for the National Education Association.
Although the guideline is higher than last year, school officials say they don't know yet how large teachers' salary increases will be.
In urging the board to consider higher salary increases, several former teachers who are now federal employees said they received 7 per cent cost-of-living increases last year. Starting salaries for Arlington teachers with a bachelor's degree and no experience are $10,758.
At last week's meeting, school board chaiman Thomas Penn assured the group, %The school board is very interested in getting adequate raises for teachers. We were very distressed last year when very distressed last year when we couldn't go above 2 per cent."
About half way through the hearing Penn spotted Purdy standing at the back of the room. Penn introduced him to the audience, which cheered loudly, and asked him to take a seat in front. A Purdy, who is expected to be county board chairman next year, sat down Cuban quipped, "Take notes for your colleagues, John."
Purdy urged the school board to ask the county board for the funds it needs rather than the funds it thinks the board will will approve.
At the regular school board meeting after the hearing, the board, on Cuban's recommendation, deferred action until Jan. 19 on a proposed traditional alternative school.
A board-appointed task force has proposed that a traditional alternative school be established next fall for students in all grades who wish to enroll. Under the proposal, the school would place heavy emphasis on basic academic subjects, would require that students meet a "standard of appearance" and would have self-contained classrooms.
Cuban has said he favors establishing a traditional school on a voluntary basis as part of Arlington's variety of educational approaches. However, in a staff response presented at last week's meeting, he proposed a scaled-down version of the proposal, to the dismay of several task force members.
Cuban recommended that if enough students enroll, two classes each in grades one through five be established next fall. He said by excluding the sixth grade next year students would receive at least two years of traditional instruction.
He recommended that the board defer establishment of a traditional secondary school for two years because of the current reorganization which will shift ninth graders to high schools beginning next fall.
"It will be difficult enough to begin one traditional alternative elementary school and implement the secondary school reorganization," Cuban told the board. "To begin a secondary traditional alternative school in the same year . . . would place too large a burden on the system."
Cuban concluded that during the next month the educational philosophy of a traditional school must be more clearly defined and a building chosen.
Ingrid Planert, task force chairman, said she was disappointed by Cuban's response. Before the meeting, Planert said she felt a traditional school was more necessary at the secondary level, to combat declining test scores, than at the elementary level.
Task force member Marcia Churchill noted that the impetus for a traditional alternative was sparked by the decision to close Stratford and Gunston junior high schools at the end of this school year. "It is vital to the success of the elementary program to provide something on the upper end," she said. "Traditional programs in grades one through 12 were mandated by the citizens. This is the year, difficult as it may be, that two schools will be closed and staff and buildings will be closed and staff and buildings will be available."
All four school board members expressed reservations about a traditional school. Several indicated that they viewed its establishment as a step backward.
"I think most of our teachers are rather traditional no matter what building they teach in," said board member Diane Henderson. "i really think we've gone away from a lock-step classroom where bright kids are bored out of their minds and less bright children are frustrated."
Henderson and vice-chairman Mary Margaret Whipple noted that with the reorganization and national tend back to educational basics, Arlington secondary schools will probably beccome increasingly traditional. "All of our schools already share many of the characterisitcs the task force recommends," Whipple said.
Board member Ann Broder summed up what seemed to be the board's collective suntiment: "I want a very clear definition of what it is we're developing.