Bel Air High debates second vote on longer classes

December 13, 1992|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

Some teachers at Bel Air High School want to revive an unsuccessful bid to divide the school year into semesters and have students take four classes a day instead of seven.

The school's council, composed of 10 teachers, one student, one parent and one administrator, will decide Tuesday whether to allow a second vote on the four-period day.

In early fall, teachers agreed that the four-class day would have to be approved by at least 75 percent of the faculty to pass. But in the late November vote, only 68 percent approved.

Supporters of the plan, like teacher Lori Grego, want a chance to vote again, with the winner to be determined by a simple majority.

Critics of the proposal disagree.

"What our teachers are telling us is that if you don't like the way a vote goes, you change the rules until you get the results you want," said Colleen Akehurst, student council president.

"This looks more like a dictatorship than a democracy," the 16-year-old junior said.

At issue is a proposal by Principal William M. Ekey to divide the school year into semesters. Students would take four 90-minute courses each day, switching courses half-way through the year. The four-class day would begin in September.

Pupils at the 1,230-student Bel Air High, like other high schools in the county, have seven 45-minute courses a day.

Ms. Grego, a French and English teacher, said she's sorry she voted for a 75 percent consensus. "More than two-thirds of the teachers in this school want to switch to a four-class day; that's a majority," she said.

That also justifies another vote, Ms. Grego said.

Dottie Towsley, a social studies teacher, deplores that kind of reasoning. "We voted, we agreed on that 75 percent consensus. That was done democratically," Ms. Towsley said. "What are we teaching our students if we change the criteria?"

Ms. Towsley, who voted against the four-class day, said the school is moving too quickly. "We need more time and more information," she said.

Mr. Ekey, the principal, said "moving too fast" is the most common complaint he hears from teachers.

"There are certain teachers who still have some concerns and would prefer to think about it for another year," he said.

Only one other school in Maryland, Governor Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick County, has adopted a four-class school day.

There, a recent survey found that 97 percent of the faculty preferred the four-class over a seven-class day, Mr. Ekey said. About 67 percent of students preferred the four-class day, and 15 percent wanted to return to the seven-period day, he said.

Ms. Towsley said she wants to see how the four-class day works at the Frederick school over a year. Bel Air teachers could then use that information to make their decision.

Mr. Ekey said he was "disappointed" the vote on the four-class day failed at Bel Air High but he under stood some teachers' opposition.

"The easiest thing to do now is to say that the issue is over and let it die. We can tackle it again next year," Mr. Ekey said.

The council's proposal would allow the principal and two assistant principals to vote, in addition to the 73 teachers who voted earlier.

Mr. Ekey created the council last year when he decided to give some control of the school to teachers.

This year, most of the principals at the county's other 45 schools have also begun including teachers in school decisions.

The four-day period is the most far-reaching issue the council has considered. In the past, the council has dealt with issues such as the school's field trip policy, Mr. Ekey said.

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