Panel to study need for high-tech high school Graduates would fill biotechnology jobs

February 07, 1992|By Liz Bowie and Ann LoLordo

In an effort to support Baltimore's growing biotechnology industry, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has asked a panel of community leaders to look at whether the city should establish a life-sciences high school.

Creation of a new school would help fill an expected need of the city's medical institutions and biotechnology companies for employees trained in the sciences -- from Ph.D.s to laboratory technicians and manufacturing workers. And proponents believe the work force should be home-grown rather than imported from other regions of the nation.

The concept is based on a Greater Baltimore Committee report released in May that lays out an economic future for the city and the state based on the life sciences. A high school with a focus on human, plant and animal sciences and their applications in industry "seemed like a natural fit," Mr. Schmoke said yesterday.

"If we pursue the model that's along the lines of the School for the Arts, we may be able to develop a school that will be a regional asset and I think that also will help us in trying to have people view this area as single region and not as competing jurisdictions," he said, suggesting the school could serve students from throughout the metropolitan area.

But, Mr. Schmoke said, the committee is free to explore a variety of options. For example, the mayor said, the goal might be accomplished through curriculum changes at one of the city's existing high schools.

"The mayor has not given us any restrictions," said William L. Jews, president of Dimensions Health Corp., and head of the task force.

Mr. Jews, who also was chairman of the GBC's life-sciences committee, said the panel of 16 leaders from business, education, science and medicine would outline the focus of its study and report to the mayor within several months.

The GBC report on the life sciences said there was a critical need for entry-level technicians with high school or associate of arts degrees.

However, current graduates do not have the skills in math, reading and problem solving and are not familiar with scientific terminology and equipment, the report said.

A life-sciences school could also be used to feed an industry that includes more than 130 small medical and biotechnology companies and is predicted to grow tenfold in the next five years.

"A life-sciences high school would be terrific for us," said Joe Kelly, president of Crop Genetics International, one of the larger biotechnology companies in the state.

Community colleges and universities are already trying to respond to the need.

The New Community College of Baltimore, for instance, has set up a life-sciences institute that links private industry and health and research institutions to ensure that students are taught the skills they need.

Members of biotechnology panel

* William L. Jews (chairman), president, CEO, Dimensions Health Corp.

* Dr. Walter G. Amprey, superintendent, Baltimore public schools

* Dr. Rita R. Colwell, president, Maryland Biotechnology Institute

* Buell Duncan, general manager Maryland trading area, IBM Corp.

* Robert Embry, president, Abell Foundation

* Honora M. Freeman, president, Baltimore Development Corp.

* Daniel P. Henson III, senior developer, Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse

* Barbara Hill, president, Prudential Health Care Plan of the Mid-Atlantic

* Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, executive vice president, University of Maryland Baltimore County

* Donald P. Hutchinson, president, Maryland Economic Growth Associates

* Robert Keller, president, Greater Baltimore Committee

* Dennis O'Brien, president, Lady Maryland Foundation

* Howard P. Rawlings, D-Baltimore, Maryland House of Delegates

* Dr. Art Shukas, professor of biomedical engineering, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

* Walter Sondheim, senior adviser, Greater Baltimore Committee

* Dr. Levi Watkins Jr., professor of cardiac surgery and assistant dean, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

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