Class lengths to change at Chesapeake Superintendent apologizes for not consulting school board

April 08, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

A pilot program calling for four class periods a day at Chesapeake High School will go on as planned next fall after the Anne Arundel County school superintendent apologized to the school board yesterday for making the decision alone.

Several board members roundly criticized Superintendent C. Berry Carter II for not bringing the issue to them for a vote, after first discussing among themselves for nearly two hours whether he should have done so.

The plan would stretch classes from 45 minutes to 85 minutes. Teachers are expected to depend less on lectures and more on small discussion groups. Created as an alternative to adding a seventh class period each day, the plan allows schools to cram a two-semester course into one semester. Students would get two credits instead of one for each course they take in a semester.

Board member Dorothy Chaney agreed with Mr. Carter that the decision simply involved a change in the time schedule at the school and therefore was his administrative decision to make.

Others disagreed strongly, and tempers flared at times.

After several rounds of heated discussion, as Mrs. Chaney apparently was whispering, board member Maureen Carr York, who had the floor, said, "'I don't criticize the administration for bringing this up -- Mrs. Chaney, keep your mouth shut when I'm talking please -- I think it's a good idea to bring it forward, but I feel as if the decision was made before anyone had the ability to offer input."

The issue came up at yesterday's school board meeting when parent Marilyn Watson berated board members for not telling parents and Chesapeake High School students about the change until early this month. She also criticized them for not attending a meeting with parents last week, at which the program was explained for the first time.

"As parents, we also would have appreciated a meeting early in the school year, in the fall, to inform us of the changes that were coming rather than to learn of something this late," said Ms. Watson.

But school board members disavowed knowledge that the program was in fact to begin next fall, and began debating whether it was a policy decision they should have voted on, or whether it was an administrative matter the superintendent could handle alone.

Ms. Watson pointed out, however, that the math curriculum will change next year, with a year's worth of work being condensed into one semester in some cases. And teachers at the school have said longer class periods mean they will have to use new teaching methods to keep students' attention.

"I'm very sorry it has caused this consternation," Mr. Carter told the school board and parents. "I take full responsibility, blame, credit, whatever. I didn't see changing the schedule as a policy decision.

"From now on, with any kind of change, I'll make sure it gets on the board's agenda, although it may mean long delays in getting some programs on board."

School board members and parents will be updated monthly on the progress as teachers get ready for the change.

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