Catholic school cited for innovation ANNE ARUNDEL EDUCATION

June 07, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

Archbishop Spalding High School, where students wear the traditional uniform, is proud that it can also break with tradition.

"We're anything but boring," said Kathleen E. Hider, director of development for the school. "There is a certain stereotype people have of Catholic schools. We do have an underlying value system we work from, but if that's boring, we don't mind."

The U.S. Department of Education certainly agrees there's something extraordinary about the school. A week ago, Archbishop Spalding was designated a "Blue Ribbon" school -- a national honor commending "break-the-mold" schools for their innovative approaches to education. Archbishop Spalding was among 10 schools in Maryland to receive the honor; it was the only Blue Ribbon school designated in Anne Arundel County.

"I think there are two things that are special about Archbishop Spalding that caught the committee's eye," said principal Barbara Schwitzer, who runs the 607-student school in Severn. "One of them is the concurrent credits we offer."

Students at Archbishop Spalding can simultaneously earn high school and college credits by taking computer classes taught during school hours by guest professors from nearby Anne Arundel Community College. The college, which offers evening classes at the school, also outfitted two new computer labs.

"A graduate from our school can graduate with 13 credits in computer science, which we feel is tremendously important in this day and age," said Mrs. Schwitzer. "We also require all our students to take an introductory class in word processing. And there are a lot of girls in our program, which is unusual at a time when there are a lot of concerns about the fact that not enough women are getting interested in science and math classes."

The other program Mrs. Schwitzer believes caught the judging committee's attention is one that takes students who are behind in reading skills and assigns reading specialists to help them.

"At a lot of schools, you'll find students at the lower end of the academic spectrum doing busy work, but not here," said Mrs. Schwitzer. "Here, you'll see all our students working on research papers, or working on other ways to improve their skills."

Mrs. Schwitzer also noted that the school has a lot of community support. Established in 1966, the school is beginning to attract second-generation students.

"When we were waiting to hear [about the Blue Ribbon honor], the strangest students would come up to me and ask 'Have you heard anything yet?' -- I mean students you wouldn't think would care about it at all," Mrs. Schwitzer said. "I think that just goes to show that everyone here has a lot of pride."

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