Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

Although there are some formalities left in the process that could change the details, the agreement being floated to get Worcester County school system employees some more money is a concerning one.

My sources indicate the tentative agreement that will come before the Worcester County Board of Education next week will involve the elimination of 32 positions — some through retirement and some through reducing the number of Educational Assistants. These cuts will allow for teachers and other school system employees to get a two-step increase.

What’s a step? That’s a question I was asked by a caller this week. In this case, a salary step is a way for salaries to be increased based on professional experience. The idea behind it is seasoned teachers would move up in steps after an agreed upon period of time of employment. Those details are spelled out in their contracts. Many teachers have been vocal in recent weeks on this topic, reporting they are in some cases as many as four steps behind where they should be according to their employment contracts. That amounts to in some cases as much as $3,000 to $4,000 a year. A step increase is not to be confused with a Cost-Of-Living-Adjustment increase.

The concept of not replacing positions held by individuals retiring this year or even having individuals retire a little sooner than planned, or maybe even before they are eligible, makes financial sense. It’s the elimination of the EA positions that has many concerned. EAs are critical in many schools. My hope is it was realized the school system was not being as efficient as possible rather than actual one-on-one assistants, who work hand in hand with the kids, being cut where they are desperately needed, such as with special education students in general education settings.

If the Board of Education approves this plan as outlined here, the County Commissioners will essentially not have any say on the matter. The school system has been given its funding in the budget and it’s up to the system to determine how it’s to be spent. So long as the money stays in the designated categories the commissioners have no say. The commissioners can only weigh in if designated funds are being reallocated to other categories. Even in those cases, most are rubber stamped.

There are many unknowns with this plan at this point. It’s disturbing to think the commissioners could have most likely assuaged the teachers by simply doing the half-step increase effective in January with a pledge to make progress toward making them whole in the next budget. Instead, the school board took drastic measures because, “our people come first; they are worth it,” according to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jerry Wilson in a statement last week.

I just hope these are positions that are not imperative and do not result in noticeable differences for parents and students. I just don’t see how that’s possible, but it’s long been alleged by some that there’s plenty of proverbial fat in the school system’s budget. It looks like that will be discovered soon enough if all continues on the current plan.

The idea of painting something consistent with the beach lifestyle on Ocean City’s new 1st Street water tower is worth exploring if the cost is right, but otherwise it’s not worth a major financial investment.

This is a feel-good type of thing and I like the basic concept behind it. However, rather than a beach ball, which is actually never a good idea to have on the beach in Ocean City unless you want to spend the day chasing it with the wind, I would rather see something related to the sportfishing industry. The crab concept is not a bad one either, but I think something a little bit more specific to what Ocean City is about is a better idea than the beach ball, an example of which is on the front page.

With the weather forecast looking solid, Senior Week at its peak and several other events taking place, the OC Air Show weekend will be a crowded one in Ocean City.

Parking will be sparse. Traffic will be intense. It will be hot. A wide variety of individuals with diverse socio-economic profiles will mix in cramp quarters, providing some interesting sights to be sure.

There will surely be some headaches associated with this weekend, but we encourage local residents as well as visitors to cope and be sure to take in the sights and sounds of the OC Air Show.

This year’s lineup — headlined by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels — will surely make for the best-ever OC Air Show. Any doubts should have been erased yesterday when the Angels showed off just a little bit of what they have with dozens of passes and maneuvers over Ocean City. It’s going to be a great weekend. Just don’t fret over the small stuff and remember years from now you will not recall the frustration for the parking spot, but you will remember seeing the Blue Angels fly over Ocean City. It could be sometime before we see them again.