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Six Suburban Schools in Md. To Be 'Reconstituted'

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The superintendent of a suburban Maryland school system will dramatically reorganize six schools and strip them of their staffs this summer in hopes of jump-starting their flagging academic performance.

Jerome Clark, the superintendent of the Prince George's County schools, told the entire staffs--from principals to custodians--of two middle and four elementary schools last week that they will have to reapply for their jobs by June 20 if they want to return in September.

While such reorganizations of poorly performing schools--often known as reconstitution--are not uncommon in urban districts, one education expert said this may be the first time a suburban school system has embarked on such a far-reaching overhaul.

"I've never heard of anything in the suburbs that in any way mirrored what the cities have been doing, until now," said Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, a Washington group that represents large urban districts.

Pre-Emptive Action

Prince George's officials said they wanted to intervene at the six targeted schools before the state did. All six have a high percentage of poor students and fewer credentialed teachers than other district schools.

"These six schools are far from the standard and are losing ground, so it's a matter of stepping in and doing the things that need to be done instead of somebody doing it for us," said Christopher Cason, a spokesman for the 125,000-student district, which borders Washington.

In the past few years, Maryland education officials have identified 52 schools that are eligible to be reconstituted by the state for failing to meet academic-performance targets. While Prince George's students score next to last in the state on student assessments--with only 25 percent of students scoring satisfactorily--no Prince George's schools have been slated for reconstitution yet, state education officials said.

Prince George's officials said last week they were still debating where to place employees of the six schools who are not retained in their current positions. No one will be fired, only reassigned, Mr. Cason said.

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