Student On School Board Grew Up To The Challenge

Meade's Mcgill, 18,was Active On Panel

June 24, 1991|By Dianne Williams Hayes | Dianne Williams Hayes,Staff writer

The parking lot at Meade High School is nearly empty. School is out for the summer and graduates are making the most of these hot summer days before they race off to college or begin new jobs.

But for 18-year-old Kenneth McGill, it's business as usual -- at least for about a week more, until he hands over his responsibilities as student school board member to Miecha Werwie, a senior at Southern High. For now, the Meade High graduate must continue to ponder the school budget and its impact on students.

Before he can reach the sidewalk near the parking lot outside hisalma mater to go inside, McGill is approached by a driver's education teacher who wants to state his case for saving the driver's education program. School officials have on several occasions talked about cutting the program.

Even with all his additional adult responsibilities, McGill still bears the boyish smirk he had before taking on one of the highest levels of responsibility available to county students.

But something is different.

Outside of the extra inch or so in height -- he's 6-foot-1 -- McGill says he has grown personally from the experience.

"I learned a lot, and a lot about myself," he said. "My ability to make decisions has improved, as well as my abilityto convince others of my beliefs."

For the first six months of his tenure on the board, McGill did a lot more listening than talking. But the second half of the school year, he not only made his presenceknown, but on occasion challenged School Superintendent Larry L. Lorton and other board members.

During a board meeting about a month before the end of the school year, an elementary school pupil sat before the board asking that instrumental music be spared from budget cuts. Lorton assured the youngster that it would not be cut, even though it was on a list of programs recommended for trimming.

But McGill told the pupil that the board could not make promises about specific programs because money is tight.

"It's important to be honest," he says. "I feel strongly about that, even for an elementary kid. Maybe I didn't think about all the implications, but I thought it shouldbe said. We can't ever say we are not going to cut something."

Hecame to the forefront again after suggesting that high school openings be delayed on exam days -- at a savings of about $30,000. The proposal became known as the "McGill plan."

But being a school board member meant some sacrifices. While many of his fellow graduates were heading to Ocean City, he was forced to sit through a daylong school board meeting. Sometimes he has had to sit through sessions running until midnight and be in class at 7:30 the next morning.

"I don't regret the time I missed out on senior activities," McGill said. "I value what I did. Maybe I'm not out for the typical high school experience."

As a student member, he also had the difficult task of sitting

through executive sessions when sensitive decisions were being made about his high school -- including a vote for Stanley Stawas to become principal. But despite the challenges, he earned the respect of fellow board members.

"He's an amazing young man," Paul Greksa said. "He is mature in his thinking beyond his years. He's just brightand hard-working. The thing that impressed me about him is that he is not intimidated being in a group of adults, as I would think a lot of young people might be. He expressed his opinions clearly and with great maturity. I'll adopt him any time."

Ironically, McGill considers himself a late bloomer after having difficulty during his first two years of school. He credits involvement in the Student GovernmentAssociation and the Chesapeake Regional Area of Student Councils as the impetus to regain his interest in school.

Now, he is headed toCornell University with a 3.3 grade-point average.

His advice forWerwie, the senior at Southern High who will fill his shoes?

"Chose your words carefully, but don't be afraid to speak out," he says.

"She's got a good grip on what she needs to do to be a good board member," he adds. "(Having) student members allows the board to have an insight into how their decisions will affect the schools. It keepsthe board's priorities in order. I'm excited.

"She will hit the ground running."

Student board members are elected by the membership of CRASC and appointed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer. Anne Arundel's student board member is the only one in the state, and possibly the nation, with full voting privileges.

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