Budget cuts prompt changes for Magnet program


March 22, 2008, midnight | By David Meyer Kiera Zitelman | 12 years, 4 months ago

Teachers consider leaving in lieu of position eliminations


The Magnet program will lose an unspecified number of positions and some teacher planning periods next year due to MCPS budget cuts, according to Magnet Coordinator Dennis Heidler. The changes have led to an outcry among several Magnet parents and teachers. Parents have been communicating their dissent on a Magnet list serve, and several teachers have expressed their intention to leave the program.

According to Heidler, the Magnet faces budget cuts that will result in elimination of planning periods for teachers of junior and senior classes. The planning periods are essential to the interdisciplinary elements of the ninth and tenth grade curricula, and teachers of those classes will still have them next year. While regular teachers generally teach five classes and have one planning period, many magnet teachers teach only four classes and have two planning periods.

Heidler, Principal Darryl Williams and several community school officials will be present at an April 2 meeting in the Blair auditorium for parents regarding the budget cuts. On March 20, Heidler released a memorandum encouraging parents to attend the meeting and promising to answer any questions about the possible changes.

On Sunday, March 15, a Magnet parent sent an email to the Magnet parent list serve saying she had heard of the changes and possible resignations from an undisclosed Magnet teacher. Rosanne Hurwitz, another parent, has created a separate online forum devoted to the issue.

Several teachers have expressed their discomfort with the possible modifications. Math teacher Eric Walstein believes that the changes go against the founding philosophy of the Magnet. "It's changing the Magnet to do something it was never designed to do," he said.

Heidler stressed that the Magnet curriculum and its effect on the students will not be altered. However, the order in which the courses are taught will have to change due to position cuts. According to Heidler, this adjustment will not alter the level of education. "That doesn't change what the students are going to walk away with," he said.

Some teachers will be reassigned to other teaching positions, Heidler said, but specifics will not be released until the specific date the teacher's contract allows it. He stressed that teachers who have at this point indicated they will leave are doing so on their own accord. Only one Magnet elective, Advanced Applications of Software, will be eliminated, mostly due to low enrollment. Biochemistry and Advanced Geometry were not offered for course registration this year.

More non-Magnet Blair teachers will teach Magnet classes next year, but no Magnet teachers will have to teach regular courses, Heidler said.
The budget cuts are a result of stress on the MCPS budget – 80 percent of which is funded by taxes from the struggling real estate market. The fiscal year 2009 budget, which the MCPS Board of Education has already approved, will not be finalized until the County Council votes on it on May 1.




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