English Headmaster, Anne Arundel Educator Swap Roles

December 18, 1990|By Dianne Williams Hayes | Dianne Williams Hayes,SUN STAFF

Handing over his job, two cats, car keys and Severna Park home for a year to a near stranger was relatively easy for Gary Taber -- especially since a guy in England was doing essentially the same thing for him.

Besides getting used to driving on the other side of the road, Taber said switching places with Brian Drury, headmaster of Chatham House, a public school for gifted boys in Ramsgate, England, wasn't all that difficult.

In exchange, Drury is replacing Taber as county's coordinator of foreign language and the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program.

"I picked Drury up from airport, he spent one night with us and I said here you are," Taber said from Drury's country home in Broadstairs, England. "He has my car and two cats. We have his Skoda (a small British car). It's been a new experience, but we miss our cats."

The cats are about the only thing he's missing. He brought along his wife, Claudia, and 14-year-old daughter, Lydia, with him.

Lydia is attending Clarendon House Grammar School for Girls, the sister school to Chatham House. The move for the ninth-grader meant being bumped up a grade.

"She has found the work neither too hard nor too easy; she is well placed," Taber said. "It has worked out surprisingly well, but it's strange not having your own things."

The exchange was arranged by school Superintendent Larry L. Lorton and school officials from Kent County, England -- where Lorton had spent a three-week study visit last year.

Taber is working as associate headmaster at the day school for boys in grades 5 through 12, who test among the top 25 percent of the Kent County public school population.

"I'm working with the day-to-day operation of the school and sharing administrative and management responsibilities," he said. "I do what principals would do in the U.S."

A former administrative trainee at Glen Burnie High and assistant principal at Corkran Middle, Taber hopes the experience will help him become a principal in Anne Arundel.

However, while in the exchange program, he is doing a few things not on the job descriptions of most county principals -- like teach two classes of German and a college-prep general studies class.

And Lorton has given him a few homework assignments, such as gathering information on England's practice of school-based management -- something state and local teacher and principal groups are seeking.

"Great Britain is ahead of us on moving toward local management of schools," Taber said. "The school is given responsibility for expending funds, dealing with its educational programs and everything from teacher salaries to textbooks. They have had some success and some problems. We are trying to see what we can learn from them."

His counterpart back in the states is busy taking notes of his own, for school officials in England.

"They are interested in a number of issues, including the accountability systems, such as the Maryland School Performance program, and the concept of community colleges," Drury said. "We don't have such things as associate degrees. The community college model is very attractive, more than our traditional model where a young person is required to move out of the area they are brought up in."

Drury also is reviewing the county assessment and learning centers and visiting county schools.

"Whatever is derived from my time over here isn't expected to help only my school, but may have an impact across the whole system," he said.

Every six to eight weeks, Drury issues a report on his activities in the county.

"The idea is that we pick up seeds and send them back to our own country," Drury said. "We want to establish a basis of knowledge of the local systems so that it provides a platform for the two counties.

"I would also," he said, "like to be able to make some input -- as Dr.

Lorton sees appropriate -- to the (school) system here."

When he is not working, Drury and his wife, Ilsa, and 19-year-old son, Ian, are busy seeing as much of the United States as possible.

The families will return to their home school systems by mid-August 1991.

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