The old school board that wrangled endlessly with Superintendent Iris T. Metts may have been dysfunctional. But that doesn't mean its members were all wrong. As they left, some of them said, essentially, "You'll see."

And now we have.

Faced with a budget shortfall of $13.6 million, Metts -- now chief executive of the system -- blamed principals for overspending. They hired too many per-diem teachers without approval, she said. A per-diem teacher, so called because they are paid by the day, makes more than a substitute but less than a full-time teacher. Per-diem teachers are often hired instead of long-term substitutes if principals believe they would make good teachers but might not be qualified yet. Leaving aside the fact that Prince George's County is still hiring way too many teachers who aren't state-certified, the idea that principals would willy-nilly go around hiring per-diem teachers without approval is simply ludicrous.

I'm sure that exceptions could be found, but in my experience principals are as rule-bound a group of folks as you could find anywhere. And they do not hire staff without central office approval.

No principal can hire someone as a per-diem, one told me. "Human Resources decides whether to hire as a per-diem teacher," the principal said.

The fact that Metts tried to deflect blame onto principals is dismaying. Her rough treatment of them has already led many of the county's most experienced principals to leave for other school districts. This episode won't make principals want to stay. So students, teachers and parents, if you like your principal, be really nice to him or her.

Science, History a Waste for Student

Dear Homeroom:

I am a 10th-grader at Thomas Stone High School, and I just want to say I feel that making us take classes like science and history is a pointless and time-wasting thing ["MSPAP's Replacement Will Have Own Weaknesses," Homeroom, Oct. 24]. After reading what grade I am in, you're probably going to say, "Oh, she's just a child who doesn't know anything," or, "She's lazy and would rather waste time talking on the phone than read about the blood vessels of a frog or the creation of America."

But that is not true. I don't like science, but I don't mind reading about it as well as the "founding fathers." I say it's pointless because 90 percent of the students who take these classes will never use what they learn again after high school, unless they choose to. So why make kids take those classes? By doing this, you make it harder for the teachers to teach, and the other 10 percent to learn, because the ones who don't want to learn are going to disrupt the classes they see as wasting their time.

In closing, I agree with the principals who say stop teaching as much in social studies and science. Thank you for at least reading my opinion, since you did read till the end.

CiMone Davis

Thomas Stone High School

Charles County

I don't dismiss what you have to say as foolish because you are a child. You are expressing a very real frustration. But I do think you lack the judgment to understand that young people don't always see what they will need to know and what they won't need to know. We live in rapidly changing times. Frankly, even grown-ups aren't always sure what they will need to know five years down the road.

So I think you are wrong, but I will say I think this is a tough time to be a student. Just focus on learning as much as you can. Also remember that it is very difficult to get interested in a subject when you know nothing about it. Knowledge creates interest. So make sure you at least give every subject a try. Read as many books on as many subjects as possible, and remember that it can never hurt you to know stuff, but ignorance can be very dangerous.

Short Course on Financial Aid in Md. Many students and their families feel intimidated by the costs of college. They might want to find out more about the kinds of financial aid offered to Maryland students at a seminar at 7 tonight at Surrattsville High School, given by the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

For more information, contact the commission's Office of Student Financial Assistance at 410-260-4565, 800-974-1024 or at

In the Aftermath of the Sniper One of the best pieces of news from Prince George's in the last little while is that the boy who was shot at Benjamin Tasker Middle School in October was released from the hospital. I can't imagine that he won't suffer aftereffects from such a traumatic event, but he has the good wishes and prayers of the whole region. Welcome home.

And as long as I'm on the subject, I know this is really belated, but I want to acknowledge the incredible job that was performed by teachers, administrators, bus drivers and other school staff members during the time we were all worried about being shot by an unknown sniper. Knowing that a mistake could have terrible consequences, they continued doing their jobs.

Educating future citizens is a job that should not be undertaken lightly, nor should it be abandoned lightly. Metts took some flack for not closing the schools at particular points in the crisis. But to have closed them would have said that schools are a mere frill, easily forsaken. Instead she kept them open, with the full support of law enforcement agencies, who kept careful watch over school bus routes and school entries and exits.

So I want to say a very public thank you and urge others to make your appreciation known as well.

Homeroom, which appears every other week, is a forum for you. Send questions, opinions and issues that you would like to see discussed to Homeroom, The Washington Post, Prince George's Extra, 14402 Old Mill Rd., Suite 201, Upper Marlboro, Md. 20072. The fax number is 301-952-1397; the e-mail address is To see previous columns, go to, click on the Education page and look for Homeroom under Education Columnists.