Amprey takes aim at the dropout rate More job training, better meals on way

June 17, 1993|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Staff Writer

Sparked by a 16.4 percent student dropout rate last year -- more than three times the 5.2 percent rate statewide -- the Baltimore school system is revamping its vocational education curriculum and making other reforms that might retain students, the city schools superintendent, Walter G. Amprey, said yesterday.

Dr. Amprey said he shook up the school system's vocational education office earlier this week because it had failed to offer alternative programs to students, many of whom end up dropping out of school because they are bored with academics.

"There is just not enough happening in secondary schools to meet the needs of youngsters today," Dr. Amprey said.

"They are voting with their feet while we keep remaining dogmatic. What they are saying is that they don't get it, and we have to offer alternative programs for these youngsters right away."

Among the curriculum changes are a new bio-technology program for Southern High School and Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and a fire cadet program that will prepare students to become firefighters, Dr. Amprey said.

Dr. Amprey also said the school system would improve cafeteria meals as yet another way to entice students to remain in school.

"The meal has to do with attendance -- I know it might seem small," Dr. Amprey said.

The superintendent said elementary school attendance had increased slightly this year, while low-attendance figures persist in middle and high schools.

Final school attendance figures will not be available until later this month, he said.

Dr. Amprey said that to learn first hand about problems in the schools he would interview teachers who have recently quit. He said he also plans to implement a better teacher and principal leadership training program.

School crime is another area being reviewed over the summer, Dr. Amprey said.

A 10-member task force will meet to study the school police force and a new approach to school crime that will focus on counseling troublesome students instead relying so heavily on arrests and suspensions.

Last month, Dr. Amprey said he would remove Larry Burgan as school security chief on June 30. The superintendent said he plans to appoint a new security chief by September.

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