Shilling Tours Schools, Talks About State Initiatives

Says It's 'Tremendously Important' To Have Plan

November 11, 1990|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

Third-grader Chad Bohn had just one thing to say about State Superintendent Joseph L. Shilling's visit to Taneytown Elementary School.

"He asked me a lot of questions -- about everything," said the 7-year-old Keymar resident, while figuring math problems on a computer in the school's Potomac Edison Computer Lab.

But Chad was just one of the many youngsters, teachers, administrators and Board of Education members who either answered or asked questions during Shilling's day-long tour of Carroll County schools.

His tour included a morning stop at Taneytown Elementary School to visit third-graders like Chad practicing math skills on computers, second-graders learning about insects in a hands-on science program, and 4-year-olds painting, listening to stories, coloring, eating snacks and playing store in a combined Head Start-Extended Early Education Program.

Shilling later toured the School Within a School at Westminster High School -- a program geared toward helping at-risk students stay in school -- and the Carroll County Vo-Tech Center, where he met with students in the food service, diesel and nursing programs.

The state superintendent said he was particularly impressed with the hands-on science program (which was developed by Carroll teachers and has received national recognition) and the combined early education program.

"Many times you don't see that kind of cooperation," Shilling said. "I don't want to exclude anybody, but those are a couple of things that really impressed me here."

During the visit -- his first in about three years -- Shilling talked about state initiatives to improve education and also about how Carroll will stack up when the first results of the Maryland School Performance Program are released this month.

"You're going to like the message for Carroll County," said Shilling, who once taught at the former Sykesville High School. "Other (counties) are not going to like the message."

The state performance standards set levels school districts should meet in order to be rated "satisfactory" or "excellent." Categories that will be measured include math, reading, writing, citizenship and attendance.

During meetings with educators, Shilling discussed the various state initiatives, which range from extending the school calendar by 20 days to mandatory kindergarten. He noted that some initiatives, particularly the early education programs, are aimed at helping at-risk students in places like Baltimore.

"No state plan is going to work for 24 school systems across the state," Shilling said. "I don't expect everybody to embrace 15 initiatives, and then we walk off in the sunset."

He said it was "tremendously important" to have a Carroll plan, such as the school-improvement recommendations unveiled by a county task force last month.

Teachers and administrators raised concerns about some of the initiatives, particularly the proposal to extend the school calendar, and whether state money would be available to support programs.

Noting that state funding for elementary and secondary education has dropped by about 5 percent in the past six years, Shilling said money would not likely be available for all the initiatives. But he said he expected them to be financed over a period of four or five years, with early education programs receiving top priority.

Carroll Superintendent R. Edward Shilling, the state superintendent's brother, deemed the visit a great success and said teachers and administrators should look forward to celebrating Carroll's good standing in the school performance program when results are released Nov. 19.

"We're going to look good. We're going to look fine. We'll celebrate the success, and what things we need to put time and energy into," he said.

About the programs his brother supported, Shilling said: "When you let people take risks, some great things happen."

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