Schools Confront the New ABCs

August 31, 1992

As youngsters return to the public schools, some as early as today, the systems to which they'll be returning are practicing their own new set of ABCs -- accountability, budget cuts and changing faces.

The governor recently announced a projected $500 million deficit. At best, that could dictate program cutbacks. At worst, it could lead to furloughs, job actions and animosity between labor and management, as festered last spring. Meanwhile, taxpayers, politicians and a new breed of school superintendents are pressing for greater accountability to root out bureaucratic petrification. Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties have new leadership, and Baltimore's second-year superintendent is shaking things up by enlisting private management to run nine city schools. What follows is a capsule of the state of change for the coming school year:

* ANNE ARUNDEL: After eight rocky years under a pair of superintendents imported from smaller school systems, the county schools are in the hands of veteran county school administrator C. Berry Carter II. The most controversial change for 1992-93 is that students need slightly higher grades than before -- a 2.0 rather than a 1.6 -- and no failing marks, to participate in sports.

* BALTIMORE CITY: Superintendent Walter Amprey will continue the system-wide shakeup he started last year. Much attention will focus on nine schools, to be taken over by a private Minnesota company in an effort to improve performance and instill competition to education. A redrawing of school districts also is likely to spur controversy.

* BALTIMORE COUNTY: Stuart D. Berger has taken over from Robert Y. Dubel, who retired after 16 years at the helm. Within weeks of starting his job, Dr. Berger re-assigned 20 central administrators and created an all-day kindergarten program. As the changes come fast and furious, there is a sharp contrast between Dr. Dubel, who built a strong central administration, and Dr. Berger, who prefers "on-site" management by principals.

* CARROLL: Carroll's educators are interested in developing higher-level thinking skills in students. Curriculum changes should encourage elementary students to become more involved in the learning process. The board will have to deal with budget cuts against a backdrop of ill will generated when it approved raises for the superintendent and his deputy but for no other workers.

* HARFORD: The county had its own salary fight; half the teachers won step-raises, the rest are chafing under a two-year freeze. A smoking ban, the first in state schools, is in effect. There will also be 1,400, or 4 percent, more students, but only one new school opening, Abingdon Elementary.

* HOWARD: Howard's employees got a pay raise of 2.5 percent across the board, which could stir the ire of angry legislators when the budget ax falls. Human relations has become a major thrust, in response to several racial incidents. A curriculum on values will be used for the first time.

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