Year three for the all-male class at Matthew A. Henson Elementary School has produced better attendance, higher test scores and a dedication to learning. Just ask Vice President Dan Quayle.
While third- and fourth-graders got a lesson in "touch math" yesterday, Quayle visited the school and stood next to a chalk board, observing as students learned to count using dots on numbers rather than their fingers.
The class of 45 tried to keep its attention on the lesson as a band of reporters and mini-cams recorded the event. Soon, the guest lecturer took over.
"I want to tell you about the A-B-C-D's of life," Quayle said, meaning attitude, behavior, concentration and dedication.
"Promise me that you will never take any drugs," he said. A moment later he added, "You just promised the president [pause] the vice president, of the United States that you will never do drugs, and I'm going to hold you accountable."
Quayle's visit to the West Baltimore school was designed to push President Bush's education plan, known as America 2000. It was the second time in one month that a top Bush administration figure visited the city's experimental black, all-male classrooms. It was an endorsement of a new trend in which certain high-risk black male students are segregated from female classmates and taught by a black male who also serves as a role model.
At Henson, with pre-kindergarten through fifth grades, teachers
and administrators are saying the concept is successful.
Richard J. Boynton and Lee Moody team teach the all-male class and emphasize self esteem and learning skills.
"They [the students] seem not to be distracted by each other," Moody said. "The program is working great. I was a probation officer in Baltimore Juvenile Court before this, and when the kids came to me at this age, they were already lost in the system. I figured that I could catch them before they got lost and it would help. It has. If I had drawn it up myself, I couldn't have done it better."
Students Tavon Hasty and Kamian Vaughan greeted the vice president as Principal Leah Goldsborough-Hasty and city school Superintendent Walter Amprey looked on. Then Quayle visited a fifth grade, co-educational class and hosted a 15-minute round-table discussion with a group of parents and teachers.
After the school visit, the vice president crossed Baker Street and knocked on the door of Pauline Borum's modest row house.
After cuddling Borum's 20-month-old granddaughter, Jasmine, for the cameras, Quayle wrote a note to Borum's boss explaining why she would be late for her shift as a machine operator at Lion Brothers, an Owings Mills decorative patch manufacturer.
"Please excuse her, I'd greatly appreciate it," the note said.
Still stunned by the visit after Quayle's limousine sped away, Borum said she hoped the note would placate her boss.
"I hope they believe me," she said. "They ought to give me a raise for this one."