Brains and brawn are at last getting equal footing, or at least seating. For the first time, the Harford County school system has agreed to furnish buses for academic competitions, as it has long done for sporting events.
Members of academic teams at each of the county's nine high schools have had to rely on parents or students for a ride. Teachers couldn't transport the students because of liability concerns, and students were discouraged from driving themselves.
The school system announced its decision to allow buses to transport academic contestants at Monday's school board meeting. Albert F. Seymour, a school system spokesman, said officials have yet to determine how many trips will be made or how much they'll cost.
Adam R. Seippe, a Bel Air High School junior, welcomed the news. Adam, 16, attended the board meeting to plead for transportation for academic teams.
"All we wanted was for the school system to treat academic teams the same way they treat athletics," he said after the meeting. Adam said he has attended academic events at Essex Community College and the Johns Hopkins University, as well as other high schools.
And, he said, it can be difficult to find parents willing to drive students to afternoon and weekend competitions.
Academic team coaches said they also were pleased. "This is a great relief. We did not want students to drive themselves," said Martha Dauphinais, a coach and math teacher at Bel Air High.
Gladys Brass, a coach at Edgewood High and librarian, said many students are too young to drive themselves. "We are tired of being treated like second-class citizens, while watching sports [players] go everywhere," she said.
At Bel Air High, about 20 students participate in academic competitions.
The students, including Adam, compete in programs such as "It's Academic," televised on WJZ-TV, or Data Race, a similar program sponsored by Essex Community College. The Bel Air team is in the semifinals of "It's Academic" and has so far won $900 in scholarship money for the school.
Sandra Guzewich, a coach and math teacher at Bel Air High, said the academic students participated in 11 or 12 events off school grounds last year. The Bel Air team got buses for two trips, she said.
Each school, depending on the size of its population, gets a certain number of buses for field trips each year, Mr. Seymour said. In the past, schools had to choose between academic events or field trips. Now, that won't be necessary, he said.
Teachers who coach academic teams also will get paid for it now.
The teacher's contract for next year includes $785 for teachers who stay after school to coach academic events. In the past, compensation had been limited almost solely to sports coaches. But if more than one teacher coaches the same event, the teachers must split the $785.
Doug Johnson, an academic team coach at Edgewood, said he was happy teachers were finally getting financial recognition from the school system.
"We probably spend 10 hours a week coaching and, if an event is held on Saturday, then we work that day, too," he said.