Candidates for school board were asked the following questions by The Washington Post:
Administrators: The Maryland State Board of Education says the Prince George's school system has the lowest ratio of administrators to pupils in the state. Yet critics insist that the school system could have cut more administrators and fewer teachers last fall. Is the school system top-heavy with administrators and, if so, exactly where would you look to cut administrators?
Budget: What would you do to protect the school budget at a time when most politicians are reluctant to raise taxes and a majority of taxpayers do not have children in the schools?
Nancy C. Cummings, 49, of 12402 Starlight La., Bowie, has been a teacher in Prince George's County for 15 years; she has a master's degree and has specialized in parent and adult education. She is active in education groups and foreign exchange programs, and is a member of the Bowie Women's Club.
Administrators: Aside from the question of whether there are too many administrators, it is my view, as a classroom teacher for 15 years, that there is far too little administrative support at the schoolhouse level. When TRIM began to pinch, and the positions of vice principal were abolished at many schools, the duties they performed, however, were not abolished. On the contrary, those duties were passed on to the principals and the classroom teachers, with the following unfortunate results: principals have become bogged down in the administrative mire arising out of the need to deal with the housekeeping details of running a physical plant and supervising faculty, cafeteria and custodial staffs; principals are now unable to spend sufficient time working with teachers by proving resource help, counseling and assistance, with respect to the quality of their professional efforts; teachers, as well, have had to spend more of their time dealing with some of those administrative details -- time better spent in teaching children.
Budget: The school budget must be protected by developing a school program priority list. Such a list should be developed by the Board of Education in conjunction with the County Council, the state Board of Education, the teacher's association, PTAs and other interested parties, to insure that there is agreement about which programs are more important than others, and, accordingly, which should be cut first and to what degree, if hard decisions have to be made. Such decisions should be made on sound educational grounds, and not for purely emotional, social, financial or political reasons.
Paul R. Shelby, 46, of 3300 Mayo Place, Bowie, is an attorney who formerly taught history and government in Prince George's County schools for 15 years.He also has taught at Prince George's Community College. He is active in Kiwanis, PTA, the YMCA and the county's "hot line." His two children attend county schools.
Administrators: Several years ago, before school enrollment peaked at 160,000 students, the argument was made that the county was too large to be administered from one central office and decentralization was needed to increase efficiency. Consequently, three administrative areas were created, with an assistant superintendent and supporting staff to administer each area. The school enrollment now is only 112,000, down 30 percent from the peak. I believe that one and possibly two administrative areas could be closed without a loss of administrative effectiveness. The most important person in a child's education is the classroom teacher. When the number of classroom teachers is decreased, necessitating increases in class size, individualized instructions, discipline and education in general are bound to suffer. I, therefore, believe that each function of the seven assistant superintendents should be closely scrutinized to determine which can be consolidated or eliminated to effect savings. These savings could then be used for textbooks and supplies for classroom instruction.
Budget: Once a year the Board of Education proposes a budget to the county executive, who "revises" it and forwards it to the County Council, which "revises" it again. I believe the budgetary process should be a continuous working relationship between the Board of Education and the county executive and County Council. I feel certain that if the county executive and council were aware of the true budgetary needs of education and were continuously assured that this money was being well spent, the Board of Education would not be in a position of having to "protect" the school budget. Although other officeholders may be reluctant to raise taxes, I believe they are equally reluctant to see Prince George's County schools become second-rate. It is the quality of our schools that determines whether industries, offices and corporate headquarters will locate here or in some neighboring jurisdiction.