June 16, 2008

County Recruiting Soldiers As Teachers


Facing local and national teacher shortages, county school officials are turning to a new source to find teachers - the military.

About a week ago, school officials signed an agreement to work with the state Department of Education's Troops to Teachers program, which recruits members of the military and their spouses into the teaching profession and helps place them in schools.

"We're looking at all recruitment options, at any opportunities to help us bring teachers," said Florie Bozzella, human relations director for county schools. "And there's research that says career changers tend to stay with (schools) longer. It's exciting."

Anne Arundel is the second Maryland school jurisdiction to work with the program. Prince George's schools already are involved, Ms. Bozzella said. The only cost to the school system for joining the program will be roughly $5,000 to place job ads in military journals, she said.

Troops to Teachers is a national program overseen by the U.S. Department of Education, operated by the Department of Defense and managed by the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support in Pensacola, Fla. It was created to recruit teachers from the military to serve in low-income schools, according to the program's Web site.

Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell has often said publicly that while Maryland schools need to hire about 7,000 teachers each year, last year colleges in the state only produced about 2,100. A high burnout rate among teachers adds to the shortage, school officials say.

Ms. Bozzella is hoping Troops to Teachers will bring in more teachers, and ones who are older and looking to make the profession a long-term career. She's also hoping the program brings more diversity into county schools. It's difficult to find and hire minorities and men who want to be teachers, but the military has plenty of both.

"We hope that'll transfer," Ms. Bozzella said.

Tim Mennuti, president of the local teachers union who himself became a teacher after serving in the Navy, said the military is a good place to recruit more teachers. Teaching is a low-paying profession, and because former military personnel have a pension to fall back on, they're often more financially prepared to live on a teacher's salary than younger teachers, he said.

"This gives us an opportunity to attract people into teaching that we would never be able to get right out of college," Mr. Mennuti said.

Troops to Teachers will help their recruits get certified in teaching, Ms. Bozzella said. Military personnel can be hired up to two years before the end of their service to begin immediately after they are discharged. Some may start the pay scale higher than new teachers fresh out of college, if they arrive with experience in related work, she said.

All applicants will have to be designated as "highly qualified" by their start date and have been honorably discharged from their military service, according to a news release from the school system.

In other business

Eight county schools will get new principals before the start of next school year, school officials said yesterday.

A few are getting swapped with principals at other schools; others are replacing retirees.

Susan Gallagher, an assistant principal at Seven Oaks Elementary School in Odenton, will become principal at Meade Heights Elementary School, located on Fort George G. Meade.

"I feel like a kid at Christmas," Ms. Gallagher said. She was an assistant principal at Meade Heights when it was located in Seven Oaks two years ago. "I'm so happy to be going back to a staff that is wonderful and the children that I miss."

The current principal of Meade Heights, Barbara Church, is retiring. Sam Salamy, principal at Glen Burnie High School, is also retiring. He said he plans to spend more time playing golf and playing guitar in his band, "Cover Story."

Vickie Plitt, the current principal of Mary E. Moss Academy, an alternative school in Crownsville, will take over as principal at Glen Burnie High School. The new principal at Mary Moss will be Wendy Slaughter, who is currently an assistant principal at Corkran Middle School in Glen Burnie.

"You always work to be a principal," Ms. Slaughter said, and added that she's looking forward to being at an alternative school. "Children are children. It's not a matter of alternative or regular education. They want discipline, structure and for someone to care."

Shawn Ashworth, who has been acting principal at Arundel Middle School since Paul Strickler retired earlier this year, was officially named the new principal. Previously she was a special assistant for safe and orderly schools for the school system.

At Belvedere Elementary School in Arnold, Principal Nancy Andrews also is retiring. She's being replaced with Susan Errichiello, who currently is principal at Piney Orchard Elementary School in Odenton.

Tasheka Sellman, an assistant principal at Marley Elementary School in Glen Burnie, is leaving to become principal of Pershing Hill Elementary School, which is being combined with West Meade Elementary School. Both Pershing Hill and West Meade are on Fort George G. Meade.

The current principal of Pershing Hill, Donna Pergerson, will be the new principal at Cape St. Claire Elementary School in Annapolis. Principal Harry Zacharko retired from Cape St. Claire earlier this year.

"It'll be an exciting challenge," Ms. Pergerson said.

And Sheila Hill, an assistant principal at Annapolis High School, will become acting principal at Old Mill High School, where Principal George Kispert is retiring.

"I'm very, very excited," Ms. Hill said. "But it's bittersweet. I'm leaving all the people here with whom I formed very tight bonds."

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