ANNAPOLIS – Maryland educators are aging.
State education officials predict that within the next 10 years, nearly 37 percent of principals and assistants, teachers, librarians, counselors and psychologists will retire.
They use the term “massive exodus” to describe the large numbers expected to leave schools districts around the state.
And a Capital News Service computer analysis shows officials have reason to be concerned.
In October 1995, the study found, Maryland educators with more than 20 years of experience accounted for 36.6 percent of the public school workforce. This means about one in every three educators belonged to this group.
A direct impact of the exodus will be on classrooms.
Immediately behind the seasoned educators in numbers are the rookies. Those with less than five years of experience made up 23.1 percent of the educators, the second-highest category. About one in every four, especially classroom teachers, fell into this group.
“We have been forecasting this massive exodus of seasoned educators for years,” said Nancy S. Grasmick, Maryland’s state superintendent of schools. “We have been seeing the early stages of this trend in the past two years. And it does worry me to see these seasoned role models leave the classrooms and their school districts. It’s hard to see the masters of the craft leave.”
The CNS analysis used a Department of Education report called “Characteristics of Professional Staff” for 1995, the most recent available.
Frederick County Public Schools provides a microcosm of what’s happening. According to officials there, in June 1995, 19 educators retired. In June 1996, the district experienced a 126 percent jump – 43 educators retired.
“We are preparing for even higher retirement numbers next year,” said Paula Lawton, personnel officer. “We are expanding our recruiting efforts to include not just Maryland colleges and universities, but Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and neighboring school districts to get teachers to come to Frederick and fill these spots….
“At the same time, we are expecting an even higher number of new teachers with no teaching experience,” Lawton said.
In Frederick, 27.4 percent of educators had more than 20 years of experience. On the opposite end of the spectrum, 23 percent had less than five years.
Lawton said of the more than 200 teachers hired in 1995, 69.2 percent were recent college graduates with no previous teaching experience. In 1996, 65 percent of fell into that same category.
Allegany County Public Schools showed similar increases. Mary Louise Jones, an administrator and spokeswoman, said roughly 20 educators retire a year. But in 1996, nearly 50 educators retired – a 150 percent increase.
Allegany is adjusting by focusing on new teacher development and ongoing training.
“Like other school systems, we saw the tide changing and realized this meant that a greater number of our educators, but mainly our teachers, would be fresh out of college,” Jones said. “This year, we formed a partnership with Frostburg State to work with aspiring teachers. We want to make sure when these graduates hit our classrooms, they have more than just book knowledge of the educational process.”
Jones said because Allegany is one of Maryland’s smaller and poorer school districts, about 50 percent of its teachers are hired directly out of Frostburg State University.
“It’s more cost effective…because we don’t have to pay them as much,” Jones said. “However, we are not going to sacrifice the quality of education…. That’s why we are working with them before they graduate.”
Of the 771 Allegany educators on the payroll in 1995, 16.5 percent had less than five years of experience. However, 43.3 percent fell into the group with more than 20 years.
Anne Arundel County Public Schools officials attribute their exodus to about 30 years of growth.
“We hired a lot of teachers in the late 1960s and early 1970s because Anne Arundel was being transformed from a rural area to a suburban area,” said David Lombardo, director of human resources. “Our student population was growing extremely fast. And many of those teachers have stayed with us. But now a lot of them are leaving.”
In 1986, 20.7 percent of Anne Arundel educators had more than 20 years of experience, compared to 12.1 percent with less than five years. However, in 1995, 41.2 percent were in the seasoned group, while 16.4 percent fell in the under-five-years- of-experience category.
“Movement is good in many ways because new teachers are straight out of college with the latest teaching skills,” Lombardo said. “However, more seasoned teachers bring a wealth of life and job experiences to the classroom.
“We want to strike a balance between the two groups.”
In 1996, 100 Anne Arundel teachers retired, Lombardo said. And in 1995, about 125 teachers retired. Anne Arundel hires about 300 new teachers each year to replace retirees and because of expansion. About 50 percent of those new hires are college graduates with no experience, Lombardo said.
Officials in larger school systems, such as Prince George’s County, believe retirement is just one of many reasons why experienced educators decide to leave.
“We are faced with salary restrictions. Plus, we haven’t been able to give cost of living raises for two years,” said Christopher Cason, spokesman for Prince George’s County Public Schools. “Not only are large retirement numbers changing the makeup of our educators, we are losing great educators to counties like Montgomery, who will pay them more money.”
As of October 1995, 37 percent of Prince George’s educators had more than 20 years’ experience. And those with less than five years accounted for 29.8 percent — the highest in the state. This represented a jump from 1986, when educators with more than 20 years made up 24.8 percent and less than five years, 13.7 percent.
Outside of state and county offices, concern about the trend is being voiced on individual school campuses.
Steve Grudis, principal of Parkside High School in Wicomico County, said teachers and parents are preparing themselves for the inevitable.
“My staff is aging,” said Grudis, an educator for 22 years. “The Parkside building was constructed in 1972. And I would say a good number of the teachers have been here since it opened.”
“Although the large retirement numbers are a concern, the parents and teachers here are involved in the interviewing process of new hires,” he said. “So everyone is a little less apprehensive. And I believe if a teacher is good, parents and their colleagues will know that regardless of their years of experience.”
Parkside has a student population of 1,050. Of 64 faculty members, Grudis said, 25 percent have less than five years’ experience. The remaining percent has anywhere from 15 to 30 years.
Countywide, nearly 38 percent of Wicomico’s educators had more than 20 years of experience in 1995, and about 18 percent had five years or less.
At Montgomery County’s Blair High School, Principal Phillip Gainous has a relatively veteran staff for his nearly 2,400 students. About 75 percent of 165 teachers have upwards of 15 years of experience. However, he warned, that is guaranteed to change.
“When I first started as principal here, almost everybody had been here for at least 20 years,” said Gainous, an educator for 32 years and Blair’s leader for 12. “Alumni would bring their new wives, husbands and children back to find their entire set of teachers still around. But it’s not that way now. And it definitely won’t be that way in about five years.”
This is the way Montgomery County Public Schools’ educators looked in 1995: About 38 percent had more than 20 years’ experience, and 17.6 percent had less than five years. In 1986, 25 percent had better than 20 years, and 13.2 had less than five.
Administrators statewide face a common challenge: In Maryland, demand for qualified new teachers exceeds supply.
According to Lawrence Leak, assistant state superintendent, in 1995-96, only about 45 percent of new teachers hired were graduates of Maryland colleges or universities. This meant that a little more than 54 percent of new hires came from out-of-state institutions.
“We are importing a lot of teachers,” said Leak, who heads the division of certification and accreditation. “However, these numbers need to be looked at carefully. It doesn’t mean that our Maryland colleges and universities aren’t producing enough graduates. It simply means that many potential teacher applicants are leaving Maryland and going to other states to teach for several reasons.”
Karl Pence, president of the Maryland State Teachers Association, said an unattractive pension plan is why increasing numbers of educators aren’t sticking around.
“Many sharp and bright young people are planning more for the future than my generation,” said Pence, who taught for 18 years in St. Mary’s County. “The latest teacher pension plan is lousy. And until that situation is fixed, more teachers will opt to retire early or leave the various school systems or decide not to come or stay in Maryland to explore better paying opportunities.”
Maryland changed its pension plan in January 1980. Anyone hired after January 1 automatically belonged to the new pension plan. However, educators with 20 or more years of experience fall into the old pension plan.
Grasmick, the state superintendent, doesn’t dismiss looming pension woes as a contributing factor.
“It is an issue,” she said. “That’s why I consider teaching to be a mission.”
Some see the demographic change as more positive than negative.
“I see a lot of enthusiasm because teachers right out of college are joining the ranks,” said Blair’s Gainous. “Some of the folks at the twilight of their careers are so entrenched in the old way of teaching, they’re against any form of change.
“On the other hand, you miss those veterans when it comes down to curriculum development and selecting leadership positions,” he said.
Susan Buswell, executive director of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, agrees that if proper training continues, the shift will only enhance the state’s school systems.
Experienced teachers are assets, she said, but parents and teachers should not to get caught up in the number of years behind someone’s name.
“I would rather my child be in class with a teacher who is energetic, committed, knowledgeable and has a willingness to be creative than in a class with a teacher with 30 years of experience using the same lesson plans they started teaching with.” -30-