School Day, Traditional Values Dominate Board Meeting Parents, Teachers, Students Champion Seven-period Day

October 14, 1990|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff writer

A delegation of Centennial High School teachers, students and parents met a discouraging reception from the school board Thursday in their effort to save the school's seven-period day.

Superintendent Michael E. Hickey told the group that the decision stands, and Board Chairman Karen B. Campbell said it would be "clearly inappropriate" for board members to reverse an administration decision.

Faculty members were "angry and upset" over being left out of the decision, government and politics teacher Linda Blakeslee told the board.

The phaseout of the seventh period was ordered in a July memo from Daniel L. Jett, director of high schools, to Centennial Principal Sylvia S.

Pattillo.

Anne L. Dodd was the only board member to offer support for the group's position. She said points raised in favor of the program would be considered during budget deliberations and when Hickey brings in recommendations for a countywide alternative to the existing six-period high school class schedule.

Centennial administrators carved a seventh period out of the lunch break 13 years ago to accommodate students who wanted elective courses in addition to state-mandated requirements. The school day is divided into seven 50-minute blocks (55 minutes with 30 minutes for lunch at other schools). Students who want to skip the lunch break can fit an extra class into that time slot.

Campbell offered the Centennial delegation one chance at the microphone after Jett reported that the seventh period is the major cause of larger-than-average class sizes at the Ellicott City high school.

Special education students being mainstreamed into regular classes also contribute to increased class sizes at the school, he said.

"The overriding concern should be what is best for the students," Blakeslee told the board.

She listed among the advantages Centennial students enjoy because of the seventh period:

* Students can take the courses recommended by selective colleges.

Orchestra director Jack Schwalm reported that one parent had found it impossible for his child to meet a highly competitive college's requirements with a six-period schedule.

* A long lunch break allows students who aren't taking a seventh class to make up tests, work on art projects or extracurricular activities, use the media center and work with outside mentors in the mentor program.

* Students taking a seventh period can get in a two-period science lab if the lab is scheduled back-to-back with lunch, Blakeslee said.

Ironically, the seventh period's success contributed to its phaseout, James R. McGowan, associate superintendent for instruction and school administration, reported.

Centennial's program spawned requests for similar programs from two other high schools this year, he reported earlier. And enrollment in the seventh period at Centennial has soared from 10 students when the program started in 1977 to 163 last year.

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