MANCHESTER — The schools may be smaller, the teachers' talents more diverse, the buildings more modern.
But Keith Cachett, assistant director of education in Thameside, England, -- near that county's Manchester -- said he's found more similarities than differences between English and American schools.
Cachett's position is similar to that of William Hyde, Carroll's assistant superintendent of administration.
"We've been finding differences, but there are a tremendous number of similarities," agreedVernon Smith, Carroll's director of school support services and one of Cachett's hosts for the week. "There are similarities in how we interact with our central governments."
Cachett, who arrived in Maryland on Feb. 19, is visiting Carroll this week to look at the county's school facilities. In addition to seeing Manchester Elementary in session on Thursday, he toured the construction at Friendship Valley and renovation at Sandymount Elementary.
"We're just continuing a link that existed before," Cachett said, explaining that his supervisor had visited Montgomery County previously. "We asked if there was somewhere we could see some school activities and (the state) suggestedCarroll County.
"I think it's been a good choice," he said with asmile.
Many of Cachett's questions concerned managing a large number of students and making them feel comfortable. About 775 students attend Manchester Elementary, while the enrollment of the average English school is 200 pupils.
The largest elementary schools have 400students, Cachett said.
"How do you cope with so many children?" he asked. "And how do the children cope with being in such a large establishment?
"The comment we always get from parents is that theirchildren have just been with the family, so they want them to come to a small environment before going to a larger environment."
Bonnie Ferrier, Manchester's principal, said she handles the size by encouraging parents to visit the school and by trying to get to know most students personally.
"I set up a big communication line and let parents know they are free to visit at any time," she said. "I want them to know it's orderly, but the children aren't like little soldiers marching through the halls."
Cachett also noted the special activities, like music and art.
"Good stuff," he said after listening toa group of third-graders practice their recorders.
Unlike in the United States, instructors in England teach all subjects in one class, Cachett said.
"We have teachers running a number of groups in a class and they might run six activities at once," he said. "Each classroom has art, music and physical education. Everything is in one class."
In addition, Cachett said he noticed how well the county schools were kept.
"I've been real impressed with the maintenance of the schools," he said. "They are all very clean."
In Thameside, schools are built when necessary and others are renovated, he said.
"We do both," Cachett said. "We have some schools still functioning that were built at the turn of the century."
Overall, Cachett said he was impressed with Manchester Elementary.
"You can always tell the atmosphere when you walk in the door," he told Ferrier. "The atmosphere here is real nice. The children are real happy and industrious."