Technology School's Students May Be Running On Empty

The Scene/County currents and undercurrent

January 05, 1992|By Donna E. Boller Erik Nelson

If we are what we eat, Gerald E. Poley would like students at the Howard County School of Technology to be more Mr. Natural and less junk-food junkie.

The School of Technology's 11 vending machines poured out a cornucopia of what the Columbia nutrition consultant calls "doses of junk food and drink" in the 1990-1991 school year. Patrons went through about 40,000 Almond Joys, M&Ms, Suzy Q cakes, corn chips and similar items, washed down with 60,000 cans of soft drinks.

In scholarly cadences, Poley told the school board at its Dec. 12meeting that eating all those simple sugars can: reduce a teen-ager's appetite for nutritious foods; cause high blood sugar, which makes some people hyperactive; increase insulin production, which lowers blood sugar and, in turn, reduces alertness and learning ability; causetooth decay; and create nutrition problems for pregnant teen-agers, (the teen parenting program is housed at the School of Technology).

Other county high schools have soda machines, but school system policy requires that machines remain locked until after the last lunch period. No other high school has snack machines available to students,although Glenelg High's athletic booster club operates a snack bar after school.

Associate Superintendent James R. McGowan says that allowing vocational-technical students to grab a midmorning or midafternoon Coke and candy bar does not violate school board policy becausethe School of Technology doesn't serve lunch.

Vocational-technical students eat lunch in their home schools -- if they eat lunch. Poley fears that the students are passing up the midday meal for sweets and soft drinks.

The School of Technology took in $25,472 from the machines during the 12 months ending June 30, 1991 and spent $27,597.Public information officer Patti P. Caplan reported that the money was spent on professional development such as conferences and workshops for teachers, student activities and general school needs.

Proceeds from soda machine sales at the county's academic high schools aregenerally far lower than at the School of Technology. Most of the schools use the money to supplement athletic department budgets, covering such costs as sports letters, paint to line fields, weight training equipment or uniforms for students who cannot afford to buy their own.

Mount Hebron High uses some of the proceeds for "honor roll breakfasts" for students who make the principal's honor roll. Profits from the soft drink machine in Atholton High's lobby go toward the annual chemical-free graduation party. Centennial High uses some of the money for guest speakers at the school.

The school board's agenda was too crowded to fit Poley's report into the time allotted for citizens to speak, but Vice Chairman Dana F. Hanna said that doesn't meanthe nutritionist's points weren't taken seriously.

Even if Poley doesn't accept Board Chairman Deborah D. Kendig's invitation to return for a fuller discussion, Hanna said board members will study the written information Poley provided. Hanna also wants the board look into how snacks and sodas are handled at other schools.

Poley said hewants to talk to Kendig and Hanna privately before he decides whether to make another presentation to the board. Meanwhile, he shakes hishead over teachers' reports that students return to classes from snack machine visits bearing two sweet rolls and a can of Coke.

Why, he asks, are we letting them fill their bodies with carbohydrates andfats when they need protein, iron, vitamins and calcium?

IT'S THE NAME THAT COUNTS

OK, so this sister-city program is a good thing, sending the youth of Columbia abroad in exchange for the youth of Cergy-Pontoise, a suburb of Paris, and Tres Cantos, a suburb of Madrid.

But whoa there, amigos.

Back in October, Tres Cantos honored its relationship with its American sibling by naming one of its new elementary schools "Colegio Publico Ciudad de Columbia."

This is not a new concept, naming landmarks after your sister cities. Cergy-Pontoise named a new square "Place Columbia" in 1984. Columbia returned the gesture by naming of "Cergy-Pontoise Place" next to the Park View Building in Town Center.

Problem is, Columbia more than likely can't return the gesture to its Spanish counterpart.

The "city," as it is wont to call itself, doesn't run the schools. The county Departmentof Education does, albeit guided by a committee that includes a few citizens.

Even worse, the department isn't likely to build any newelementary schools in Columbia, considering it just finished Pointer's Run in the 10th village, River Hill.

So while Columbia can't respond in kind, perhaps it could come up with a creative alternative. Naming a bunch of personalized pavers won't do this time, as Tres Cantos named an entire educational institution after Columbia.

How about going the extra mile and naming something even more important than a school after Tres Cantos?

The Hickory Ridge village shopping center hasn't opened yet, and village centers are at the very core of the Columbia plan. Just think what a warm feeling those Spanish high school students will get when they visit "Playa Tres Cantos."

They'll know what an honor it is when they discover what great attendancerecords centers have.

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