Westminster's '93 class, much lauded, also took more than its share of lumps

June 07, 1993|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

Senior year was certainly special, but not in the way Westminster High School Class of 1993 had intended.

The class somehow became a lightning rod of controversy this year over everything from its prom to its attempts to organize a class trip.

"We've been told for a really long time how great this class is," said Andaleeb Badiee, referring to the school administration's praise for the class members' grade point averages, leadership, charitable work and spirit.

But while school administrators still heap praise on this class, the community has painted them as spoiled brats for holding their prom in Baltimore at the Omni Hotel and spending $25,000 on it.

"We're a big class, and it's our money," Andaleeb said. "We raised it."

Other classes and other schools have held proms in Baltimore, without an outcry from the community. Somehow, the public seemed to gasp at the sheer expense -- $25,000 -- without considering that it was for 700 people, class members say.

The class president, an admired and articulate student named Jonathan Leiberman, was called a "snotty" young man in a letter to the editor of a local newspaper.

"It made me feel horrible," Jonathan said, but teachers and students rallied around him. He said he attributes the criticism to people not knowing all the facts -- among them, that no hall in Westminster was big enough to hold the 700 prom attendees.

"I think it centered around the whole school system," Jonathan said of the criticism. "There's just so much more news about the schools in the papers this year."

Jonathan, who is considering a career in politics after he graduates from Northwestern University in Illinois, thinks the Class of '93 had the bad luck of catching community resentment left over from school employees getting raises, the extension of the school year, school board elections and other issues.

Picnic for seniors

To keep from ending the year on a sour note, Westminster High's class officers decided last month to bring the seniors together for a picnic at the school's football field Friday.

As music blasted from a small sound system, students sat along the grass signing yearbooks, throwing Frisbees and eating hundreds of hamburgers provided at a discount by Jonathan's parents, Neil and Shelly Sarsfield, who own the Westminster Burger King.

The picnic also was a substitute for class trips that never materialized.

The first one the students planned was an overnight trip to New York City, to visit museums, see a Broadway show and other sights that students and Assistant Principal Kent Kreamer felt would be educational. But the central administration did not agree with the educational merit of the trip, and said the students could not take it on school time.

Mr. Kreamer said he wondered whether the bombing of the World Trade Center, which occurred around the time the class put in its New York request, didn't have some effect on the administration.

"Safety is always our main concern with anything we do," Mr. Kreamer said.

Next, the class planned a trip to an Orioles game and bought the tickets. But the administration said no, and the tickets had to be returned, said Jason Waltrup, the class vice president.

Jonathan Leiberman and Mr. Kreamer acknowledged that the

game would have been less educational than the New York trip. But they said many Westminster seniors had never been to an Orioles game and they felt it would have been educational for them.

Five years ago, the school system developed a policy to have no purely entertaining field trips on school time, said Peter B. McDowell, director of secondary education. For example, West Middle School eighth-graders went to Hershey Park on a Saturday, rather than on a school day.

He said art classes sometimes go to New York for a day, but the senior class trip did not have any direct relationship to the curriculum.

Raised $10,000

So with two nays on its trip proposals, the senior class was left with about $5,000 it couldn't spend. The class members are donating it to the incoming freshman class.

But first, they used some of the money to hold their senior prom at the Omni, offsetting the cost to students by using their fund-raising proceeds to pay for a chartered bus to take students there, to pay for parking for those who drove, and to underwrite the $30 prom ticket cost for 160 students who asked for help.

The senior class had aggressively raised $10,000 this year, intending to use the money for trips. The seniors wanted a class trip because this was to be the first year in which seniors didn't get out a week earlier than the rest of the students.

As it turned out, the seniors won't have to make up the four extra snow days that other students will; they will have graduated by then.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Leiberman says he has learned a lesson that will serve him well if he follows his political ambitions.

"It was great practice," he said. "There will always be someone who says you made the wrong decision."

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