Wilde Lake parents grill officials

January 13, 1994|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

Parents of Wilde Lake High School students last night grilled top education officials about redistricting plans and a pilot program to improve test scores of low achievers.

The school's Parent Teacher Student Association organized the meeting at Wilde Lake's auditorium that was billed as "a dialogue exchange" and lasted for two hours.

Officials questioned by parents were school Superintendent Michael Hickey; Jacqueline Brown, human relations coordinator; Daniel Jett, instructional director of high schools; and Leslie Walker-Bartnik, testing supervisor.

"It's an information exchange," PTSA President Dean E. Sterling said. "I thought this would be a good forum to clarify some things coming around."

This year, Wilde Lake is scheduled to undergo renovations, during which students will move to another high school currently under construction. Renovations are expected to be completed in 1996. Plans are also under way to increase Wilde Lake's capacity by 555 students to 1,400.

Parents voiced concern about increasing Wilde Lake's population. Many asked officials where the additional 555 students would come from and when they would enroll at Wilde Lake.

"There is no plan in place to fill those seats," said a woman whose children will attend Wilde Lake in two years. "That's not economically feasible. It just doesn't fly. A lot of us are very frustrated right now."

Some parents want the additional students to enroll in the fall of 1994.

Nat Alston, chairman of Wilde Lake's Black Student Achievement Program parent advisory council, said the school board "doesn't have the guts to make a decision" to enroll the additional students by the next academic year.

But the officials at last night's meeting said they could not answer those questions in advance of redistricting proposals that will be made public Jan. 27.

"Until boundary lines are set and so forth, I can't answer that question," Dr. Jett said.

During the meeting, Dr. Walker-Bartnik discussed county test scores, and many in the audience of some 150 bristled at comparisons between Wilde Lake and Centennial High School, considered the system's top academic institution.

But the meeting's most charged moment occurred when a former Wilde Lake student criticized officials over a pilot program aimed at raising the test scores of low-achieving students.

Charconn Rice, 20, the former student, asked the officials how the same teachers can operate a successful program when students aren't achieving with them now.

The program that Mr. Rice referred to is called MASSI -- an acronym for Motivation, Assessment, Support, Structure, Instruction. The program was developed by the school system's Human Relations Office with the aim of making the school system more sensitive to the needs and problems of different cultural groups. The program initially will target black students and feature small classes and a hands-on approach to learning to help the students raise their test scores.

The program will begin this fall at Wilde Lake and its "feeder" schools: Bryant Woods Elementary, Running Brook Elementary, Swansfield Elementary, Harper's Choice Middle and Wilde Lake Middle.

In response to Mr. Rice, Dr. Hickey said, "All they're asking for is a chance to make some modifications that they think will work better at Wilde Lake."

Dr. Brown, the human relations coordinator, did not describe the program in detail, except to say that it would reflect Wilde Lake teachers' suggestions to increase test scores.

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