The Montgomery County Public School system speaks a language of its own.

In the MCPS venacular, 400 educators attending this year's "A & S" were put "on task" to find more "academically engaged time" for "fluent and less fluent learners."

In other words, how can teachers spend more of their time teaching?

This question was one of the chief concerns at last week's annual one-day conference of Montgomery administrators and supervisors, (the approximately 600 educators at the rank of assistant principal and up).

About two-thirds of those eligible actually attended the conference.

"There are a lot of people on leave," said Karolyn Arnold, who helped organize the day's activities. "But most feel they should at least put in an appearance. After all, it's the superintendent's show."

So the educators present at Indian Springs Country Club dutifully affixed green-and-white name tags to their shirts and split into small groups to talk about "the status of selected factors of teaching and learning in MCPS," as the schedule called it.

Each small group was furnished with a worksheet, on which the participants were asked to list specific strengths and weaknesses in the school system.

"Do you think the fact that there's a great diversity of programs is a strength or weakness?" was a question discussed by one group of administrators and senior high principals. After a few minutes, the group decided to call it both a strength and a weakness.

"We use the conference as a planning device," said the superintendent, Dr. Edward Andrews, as he circulated through the crowd in an open-necked polo shirt.

Andrews and other "central office" people -- the top-level administrators who work at the Educational Services Center in Rockville, where the Board of Education is located -- will call suggestions from the worksheets to use in the coming school year.

"This is a little like a political convention," said one participant. "You know, you hear all these general comments and then some of them make it as priorities of the superintendent. And around budget time, you'll hear him asking for something that come up today."

"We've heard all this before," said another participant, wearily leaning against the cloakroom ledge at the end of the day. "Expectations? Motivation? These are great phrases, but we're out there slugging every day without this fancy talk."

Some of the more frequently heard comments:

Resources: "We all know MCPS has lots of these."

Attendance: "Kids can't learn if they're not in class."

School system bureaucracy and the principals' workload: "Shoot the deputy superintendent" was the suggestion of one staff member.

Deputy Superintendent Harry Pitt overheard the comment and laughingly shared it with the entire gathering.

"Most of the people (here) know one another," said Art Barge, a member of the staff development office, because many administrators started their careers as teachers or guidance counselors. But former colleagues and fellow classmates at training sessions now are scattered throughout the five school areas that make up the MCPS system.

The conference is "a chance to get together," said Barge.

"It's a great moral boost," added an assistant principal, as he surveyed the barbequed ribs and chicken.

Below him Indian Springs golfers drove their carts around the course. In the distance, tennis players squared off on the courts.

"The staff can use the facilities at the end of the day," said Andrews, quickly adding, "Of course, they must pay for that themselves."