New graduation rules, but not fewer credits approved by county school board

November 05, 1992|By Monica Norton | Monica Norton,Staff Writer

While the Anne Arundel County school board approved a new set of graduation requirements yesterday to bring them in line with state policy, it decided against following the state's lead and reducing the number of credits needed to graduate.

"I have difficulty understanding why we would ask less of our students," board member Maureen Carr-York said. "We have some excellent elective courses available, and I encourage our students to take advantage of them."

School Superintendent C. Berry Carter II and his staff had recommended reducing the number. Added board member Michael A. Pace, "I'm very concerned about the message this [would] send."

Staff members had argued that the state's new graduation requirements now accommodate the concerns and needs of the county, and made the additional one credit unnecessary.

But board members disagreed, saying they favored providing students with the opportunity to take more rigorous courses.

The board voted to accept the staff's remaining recommendations concerning the state's new graduation requirements. Those are:

* Replacing the county's Certificates of Program Achievement with the state's Certificate of Merit.

* Requiring students to take a half-credit course in fitness for life and a half-credit course in heath education. Currently, a one-credit physical education course is required.

* Deleting non-lab science courses.

* Restructuring Algebra I and merging various geometry courses in order to make the classes open to all students.

The staff also will be drafting guidelines for implementing the state's community service requirement by Jan. 31. Local school systems are allowed to design their own student-service programs, subject to state approval.

In other action, board members have decided to take a look at the way they schedule and conduct their twice-monthly meetings.

Board members and community members have complained about the structure and length of the meetings, many of which have run into the early morning hours. Mr. Pace submitted a list of eight items to his fellow board members to study and possibly adopt as board policy.

The recommendations include:

* Keeping the number of agenda items at a reasonable level.

* Scheduling controversial agenda items (where large crowds are expected) for daytime meetings. Board member Jo Ann Tollenger suggested the board also take a look at moving the start of night meetings up from 7:30 p.m. to 6:30 or 7 p.m., or holding special sessions on controversial subjects.

* Holding board executive sessions before board meetings, during lunch breaks, or after meetings. During day meetings, the closed-door sessions are scheduled after the time set aside for public comment, meaning they usually start around 10 a.m. or 10:30 a.m.

* Using a timer to control the amount of time for individual and group testimony.

* Encouraging audience members who support particular public testimony but have nothing additional to add to show their support by standing instead of giving repetitive testimony.

* Encouraging board members to limit their comments to questions rather than making speeches.

* Concluding night meetings no later than 11 p.m. and day meetings no later than 5 p.m., unless four members of the board vote to continue.

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