Technology school to integrate academics

November 04, 1992|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

Ed Parker doesn't want to teach skills or facts. He wants to teach people.

And he doesn't want to teach them only welding, or word processing or hair cutting. He wants to teach people to use these skills today and adapt them tomorrow. He wants to teach how to learn, and continue learning after high school.

That's why Mr. Parker and his staff at Southeastern School of Technology want to broaden the school's curriculum and its approach to technical education. The school on Sollers Point Road in Dundalk won't give up any of its technical courses or become a full-day high school, as two of the county's other technical centers are proposing.

Instead, the staff will integrate Southeastern's technical courses with the academic classes its 570 students take at five neighboring high schools. These students spend the equivalent of three class periods a day at the technical center and take academic courses at their home high schools: Dundalk, Sparrows Point, Chesapeake, Kenwood and Patapsco.

Under the proposal, Southeastern will offer technical education to ninth graders and help students devise a "personalized education plan" to meet career and academic needs. "We were meeting the needs of a very narrow group of students. If a student said 'I want to be a carpenter,' we met that need and met it very well," said Mr. Parker, the school's new principal. "Our focus was to give students job entry skills and that's it."

As the workplace changes, how ever, so does technical education. "We need a much broader focus -- to educate the whole student, not just a part of the student," he said.

Now it's not enough to teach a student an isolated sets of skills. "We know these facts and figures are going to change," so the schools need to teach young people to solve problems, to show initiative, to be able to communicate, through the written and spoken word, with co-workers and customers, he explained.

Key to the planned integration of academic and technical courses will be a team of three teachers, one each in math, science and English. They'll be hired onto Southeastern's staff to help students and faculty. They also would go into the five high schools to help coordinate students' course work.

For example, when term papers are written, they might make sure a student's topic meshes with his or her technical specialty, Mr. Parker said. The proposal will make new demands on the teachers "who are going to have to come out of the shell of their classrooms and share things," he said.

Still, the proposal would be far cheaper than making Southeastern a comprehensive high school, which would require 19 additional teachers and more than a dozen new classrooms, Mr. Parker said. As a comprehensive high school, Southeastern could accommodate about 400 students; as a technical center, it can serve about 800 "in the best of both worlds," he declared.

The school board already has approved plans to turn the Central School of Technology in Towson into a comprehensive, magnet high school for the arts. Later this month, the board will consider converting the Western School of Technology in Catonsville into a magnet school for environmental sciences.

Though the board recently approved the Southeastern plan, some of the innovations -- such as the new faculty members -- depend on next year's budget, Mr. Parker says.

At Southeastern, Mr. Parker said he wants to counsel students about their goals before they start, mapping out a student's entire high school course load, so he will know what classes he needs to graduate in a chosen field.

Under the proposal, the school will add 70 ninth graders next September. They would take required courses, plus one technical preparation class.

"We're not asking them to pick a particular job," said Mr. Parker, but to choose an area -- such as automotive repair or cosmetology -- that they might be interested in, so that eventually "they will work in a career that they like rather than in a career they just fall into."

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