Like a mocking jack-in-the-box with crossed eyes and forked tongue, an emotion-charged debate over the Montgomery County school system's area supervisory offices popped out of its hiding place at this week's school board meeting.
The confrontation apparently had been building since last week, when the County Council cut the school board's $314 million package by $5 million. t
Among the council's proposals for the 1981 budget was a trimming of 65 teaching positions, which, when added to those already decided by the school board, would bring to 320 the number of educational jobs submitted for elimination.
It is, however, up to the board to decide how those spending cuts will be brought to bear. Differing opinions on that point provided for a confrontation pitting the board's conservative and liberal factions against one another, with Superintendent Edward Andrews in something of a squeeze play.
The conservatives, led by Marian Greenblatt, came out shooting against further cuts in the teaching staff.
"I think we need to stick to our guns," said Greenblatt, "that when we say we need those teachers to keep classes small, that's exactly what we mean." s
Greenblatt argued against Andrews' recommendation to develop a plan for reducing from five to four the number of area offices. She proposed instead eliminating one of them immediately, in order to restore 45 senior high teaching positions included in the County Council cuts.
"I think it's important for everybody to realize this is going to happen," she said. "If we are saying that we are going to be closing an area office anyway, then we have time this summer to plan for it."
Board member Joseph Barse also sought to persuade the board that $675,000 -- the equivalent of 45 positions -- should be taken from area-office funds.
Andrews, however, continued to maintain that such cuts in teaching staff were "manageable."
"We are fairly certain that we don't need those 45 teachers to maintain current class sizes," he said.
Backed by liberal school board member Blair Ewing, Andrews reacted vehemently against digging into the area-office kitty to make up the budget difference.
"We ought to get the heck out of this process that budget actions determine how this school system will be run," Andrews said. "You are talking about the most drastic kind of surgery. This would be the most important disruption of school services in the school system's history . . . You can't run a railroad this way."
"One of the things this board has never addressed, apparently isn't addressing and apparently won't address," said Ewing, turning a shade of red approximating Andrews' color, "is how this school system out to be managed. There are apparently people on this board who have no conception of management and no experience with it."
Apparently anticipating confrontation with the board's newly appointed superintendent, Ewing cautioned against "undermining his control," adding, "We are moving in a way that is going to cause serious harm to the superintendent's ability to manage the school system."
The meeting fairly dissolved into parliamentary wrangling over Andrews' resolutions, which would restore 10 teaching positions in the elementary grades and begin planning for area office reductions.
The board finally agreed to postpone action on any of the proposals until next Tuesday evening.
The County Council's actions, as expected, resulted in some teacher layoffs, however. The board tentatively voted to eliminate the equivalent of nearly 30 teaching jobs -- or 39 instructors -- in physical education, music, art and business education at the elementary and secondary levels.
None, however, are tenured teachers. Most are in their first or second year.