Student board member key on snow-days issue

April 03, 1994|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Sun Staff Writer

Julie Grossman says she may study international relations in college. But the student member of the Baltimore County school board already seems well-versed in diplomacy.

It was her compromise for making up five snow days that the rest of the board finally agreed to at its March 22 meeting. And she'll undoubtedly be hearing about it from fellow students who will have to get up 30 minutes earlier as a result.

After a public hearing and inconclusive polls, long discussions and a tie vote on an earlier proposal, the board quickly embraced Julie's variation on Superintendent Stuart Berger's recommendation to lengthen the school day by 45 minutes for two months.

"I don't think you can put it all on the end," the Loch Raven High School senior told board members. "I would add a half-hour to the morning and 15 minutes to the afternoon."

And soon it was done. The longer days will start Tuesday. By voting against the earlier proposal, which would have lengthened the school day by 30 minutes and turned the last four half-days of schools into full days, Julie cost herself some time off, Dr. Berger points out. "As a senior, she wouldn't have been in school that last week."

Appointed in September by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Julie is the first student member with a vote, which she can cast on everything but personnel, budget and collective bargaining issues. A majority of the adult board opposed last year's legislation allowing the student vote, but Dr. Berger said Julie is proving those concerns unfounded. "She certainly has exercised that vote in a very responsible way," he said.

"She's smart. She's a very insightful kid," said Dr. Berger, who had not worked with student board members before coming to Baltimore County. Julie and her predecessor, Jenny Kirsten Smith, "have been unbelievable in terms of insight," he said. "It's amazing to me how they understand the educational process."

Julie said some of her classmates weren't pleased with her influence on the snow-days vote. "People are concerned about having to get up early," she said. And as the longer days draw near, the reaction "is getting worse." Her friends are hitting her with questions such as, "How could you do this to us? To yourself?"

"I'm famous for dashing into homeroom at 7:44 a.m. and 49 seconds," said the 17-year-old Towson resident. "My friends all know I'm less of a morning person than they are." But Tuesday, school for Julie and most county high school students will start at 7:15 a.m.

"Awfully deadly," Julie said. "But what's really good about the plan . . . is a lot of conflicts are solved." After-school jobs, sports, Hebrew school and ballet lessons will not be seriously disrupted by a 15-minute delay, she said.

Julie does not consider the snow-day issue as important as others in which she has been involved, but it does illustrate how her board experience has broadened her perspective.

While most students wanted a snow-days proposal that would not inconvenience them, Julie said she was juggling "so many factors that had to be taken care of."

For instance, she had not considered that elementary youngsters would have to go home during rush hour until bus drivers spoke up. And she would not have thought about the needs of different groups and schools if she had not heard their appeals.

Being on the board is "an incredible experience," with inside looks at educational theory and practice, she said. It has also shown her the political side of schools.

"Education is not an entity out there on its own. It's tied to %J government and the county executive and the County Council," Julie said. "That doesn't occur to us as we sit in a classroom conjugating Spanish verbs."

Her school board duties also devour time in a schedule that's already jammed with the student council, school and all-county band and orchestra, the mock trial team, the newspaper, clarinet lessons and a part in the spring play, "Arsenic and Old Lace."

Besides her extracurricular activities, Julie is an honor student, having made the principal's list of distinction for every quarter of high school. She also belongs to the National Honor Society and has won several scholarships and academic awards.

"She thrives on these kinds of activities," said her father, Dr. Stuart Grossman, a cancer specialist on the faculty at Johns Hopkins Hospital. "She was involved [in middle school], but not like she's involved now.

"She's changed a lot in the past four years. It's been a lot of fun for Linda [Julie's mother, a pediatrician on the faculty at the University of Maryland] and me to watch."

Julie said activism is her idea. "I actually have been incredibly impressed with my parents," she said. "They have been very good about not pushing me."

"We do push her to go to sleep," her father said, but otherwise, "Julie doesn't need to be pushed. Oftentimes, what we need to do is sit down and help her sort out her priorities."

Julie has not settled on a college, though she has applied to eight, been accepted by four and is waiting for the other four to respond before deciding. She said she does not have a first choice, though Yale, Harvard, Swarthmore and Williams are her favorite four. She has been accepted by the last two.

Her choice also is complicated by her indecision about a major or career. "My leaning has been toward social studies, but one of my biggest problems is that I'm not very good at narrowing down what I'm interested in.

"I have trouble with decisions . . . and mornings."

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