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Teachers Offered Unusual Incentives In Suburban Washington

March 20, 1986

UPPER MARLBORO, Md., (AP) _ Teachers needing jobs will find a free month’s rent, cheaper car loans and discounts at local restaurants if they apply to the Prince George’s County schools in suburban Washington by August 1, say officials trying desperately to fill 400 positions.

The unusual offer was the brainchild of local business leaders who have been working with the school system the last two years under the philosophy that good schools mean good business.

″The school system is the heart of the community,″ said Winfield Kelly, president of the Advisory Council for Business and Industry, which organized the program. ″If it is strong and healthy than everyone else in the community will benefit.″

He predicts that if the program works, ″some of the brightest and most gifted teachers in the Northeast will be coming here.″

″Just like everyone, we are competing for a small number of applicants,″ said Jacquelyn Lendsey, spokeswoman for the Prince George’s County school system, which, at full force, has about 5,000 teachers.

The 103,000-pupil system has the lowest starting salary in the metropolitan area - $15,738 - though the amount will rise to $19,000 next year. Mrs. Lendsey said the raise ″makes us competitive.″

″But we are also going to have an extra edge by offering these discounts,″ she said. ″We need to use the techniques that have been successful in business.″

Extras the new teachers will receive include:

-a month’s free rent at their choice of 12 apartment complexes, which also will also waive security deposits.

-discounts on all consumer and auto loans and bank credit cards without an annual fee at two local banks.

-a 20 percent discount at three restaurant chains in the area.

-summer employment in professional positions with local businesses.

The National Center for Education Statistics predicts that the national teacher drought that already exists will accelerate and, by 1992, the schools could be 232,000 teachers short of the number need.

Howard Carroll, spokesman for the National Education Association, said a big push is on nationally to involve business and industry in the schools.

He said he had not heard of another program exactly like the one in Prince George’s County, though he said another may exist.

″Any time business and industry wants to help schools and attract young people to teaching, that’s fine,″ Carroll said. ″As a young person looking for a job, this would be appealing.

″We’re not going to knock anything that is going to help, but this is not a panacea for all the problems,″ he said, listing other teacher grievances including class size, materials, administrative support and school conditions.

Mrs. Lendsey said teachers in the county are presently voting on a new contract to increase salaries and provide other benefits, though the discounts being offered to applicants are not included.

″We believe the teachers with us understand the need to attract good teachers to the system. This is a beginning. It does not mean that at some point the business community will not do something for teachers already in the system,″ she said.

The business leaders, who raised more than $200,000 for a recent television advertising campaign promoting the schools, also are instructing the system’s personnel staff in corporate recruiting techniques to get the best educators.

The council will be hosting a ″hospitality suite″ in April at the Boston Consortium, where 130 school systems will vie for prospective teachers. The council will do the same at a similar program at the University of Maryland in May.

Kelly said he would be there to assure candidates that the offers are real and the talk informally about living and working in Prince George’s County.

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