Montgomery County School Superintendent Harry Pitt said this week that without incurring additional costs, he has begun implementing or planning for many of the recommendations issued early this year by a citizens' commission for attracting and retaining good teachers.
But he told the county Board of Education in a report submitted Tuesday night that it may need to consider spending a little money next year on pilot projects to move teaching in the county "to a higher plane of excellence."
Among these are experiments that would help open up in-school training time for new teachers and encourage internships for people making career changes into teaching. Pitt did not plan to ask for school board action right away, and school officials said at a briefing Tuesday that there was no way to estimate what the pilot projects would cost.
The school system's long-range planning director, Kenneth Muir, and Terrill Meyer, a county principal who heads a superintendent's advisory committee on teaching, told reporters that expanding efforts to recruit minority teachers continues to be a priority for the school system.
Montgomery hired 313 new teachers for the current school year, 20 percent of whom are black, Hispanic or Asian, the system's personnel director said. That is nearly a three-fold increase in minority recruitment in several years, a spokesman for the county teacher's association said. The school system's enrollment is more than 30 percent minority, and minority group teachers account for about 13 percent of the educational staff.
Earlier this fall, the president of the Maryland State Teachers Association, a teacher from Frederick County, told reporters that she no longer encourages students to become professional educators, because salaries and teaching conditions haven't improved.
But Montgomery's salary schedule is the best in the state, and the county has no trouble recruiting teachers, school officials said.
An experienced teacher can make $44,517 for 10 months' work, and 8 percent annual increases are planned for the next few years.
Montgomery still must compete "head to head" with Fairfax County locally when it comes to recruiting teachers, Muir said, and as a result, has started offering top-flight teachers contracts earlier in the year.
Mark Simon, president of the Montgomery County Education Association, which represents teachers, said the organization is "very encouraged" that recommendations of the study commission are "not being shelved." A lot of what needs to be done should occur "from the bottom up, with emphasis on the classroom" rather than the bureaucracy, he said.