Katie Cimbolic knew exactly what she wanted to tell the state Board of Education about its proposed changes to graduation requirements.
A senior at Annapolis High and president of the Chesapeake Regional Association of Student Councils, Cimbolic delivered a message thatwas clear and direct.
"We do not feel it would be reasonable to implement new graduation standards at a time when many county Boards of Education are struggling with a fiscal crisis," Cimbolic told stateboard members yesterday during a public hearing in Baltimore. "The changes would require major adjustments in curriculum offerings that cannot be accomplished without cost to our schools."
Even though CRASC supports the idea of required community service, a position that pits them against both the county school board and the teachers union, its leaders say financial concerns must dictate what the board should be asked to do.
"CRASC does not feel that implementing new graduation requirements would be feasible at this time, with consideration of the budget crisis," Cimbolic said.
Students and county schoolofficials sent a strong message to the state yesterday, asking that it be willing to foot more of the bill or consider delaying plans because of the fiscal climate.
The county Board of Education already is faced with trimming more than $10 million from its $341 million budget.
While school board members agree in principle with demandingmore from students, they worry about the price associated with proposed changes, which include 75 hours of student community service and mandating 19 of the 21 credits required to graduate. School officialsfear both the job of tracking the 75 community service hours and thecost of adding a seventh period to fit in all the required courses.
"Howard, Prince George's and Arundel are among the few counties that still have a sixth-period day," Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Cheryl Wilhoyte said. "We are limited in opportunity to provide opportunities for courses. We're now looking at the issue of cost and how to schedule a seven-period day within our current budget."
The cost of adding a seventh period had been estimated at $500,000 for materials and supplies and $4 million for new teacher hires, unlessthe teachers union agreed to amend its contract. Wilhoyte said her staff is looking at less expensive options that may not involve changing teacher contracts.
School board member Dorothy Chaney testifiedon behalf of the county board, presenting modifications suggested byher colleagues to the proposal. But budget cuts were utmost in her mind.
"If it's going to cost us money, then it's a problem," Chaneysaidbefore addressing the state board. "We've already been cut back to last year's level of funding . . . with 1,800 more students. It would be a strain to have to do more, unless (the state is) going to supply the funds to go with it."
Chaney told state board members thecounty board is against required community service. As an alternative, recommended offering credit for volunteer work that would be recognized at graduation.
A state school board spokesman said 143 individuals were scheduled to testify during two days of public hearings that began Tuesday. In addition, the state board received 693 letters.
Students from South River High School in Edgewater were asked to testify at the beginning of the hearings Tuesday because of the high number of them already participating in community service projects there.