Board candidate cites strengths of school system

April 18, 1994|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Sun Staff Writer

R. Allen Honaker isn't one to brag, but he says his son is an example of what the Anne Arundel County school system is doing right.

"James wanted to go to Cal Tech and he wanted to go to an American high school so we moved back here from England in 1988," said Mr. Honaker, one of four candidates seeking a seat on the county Board of Education.

"Meade High School had a reputation as one of the roughest and worst schools in the county, but we decided to put him into Meade anyway. They have excellent advanced placement courses. He was valedictorian of his class two years ago, and was able to turn down schools like Princeton. Now he's a sophomore at Cal Tech."

The years at Meade High School helped James prepare for his college career, said Mr. Honaker, whose daughter, Christine, is now at Meade. He's convinced the school system must do more to advertise its strong points.

"Each student must be prepared to follow his dream. That's our job," said Mr. Honaker. "To accomplish that is a hard task, but it's what we should be doing."

The 41-year-old Severn resident works for the Department of Defense and spent 12 years working for the department in England. He returned to Maryland in 1988. Since returning, he has participated in the department's Adopt-a-School program and worked as a mentor for students in the Education Talent Search program, which prepares students for college.

After years of working with his children's schools here and in England, Mr. Honaker, whose wife is a substitute teacher in the county, said he wants to take his commitment to education one step further.

"I've seen three different education systems, and I think that gives me an insight, more knowledge than what I have from growing up in the Maryland school system," he said.

While living in England, he and his family had a chance to visit Spain, where they observed the school system there as well.

Although Mr. Honaker is pleased with the success his children have had in Anne Arundel schools, he said the system must do more to give all students the skills they need to survive after graduation in the business world or in college.

"There are so many things that hinder the process of learning -- as simple as students and teachers not feeling safe in school, inadequate materials and supplies, and disruptive students," he said. "I don't think the school board understands what it's like to be in a classroom anymore. The folks I know -- students and teachers -- are disillusioned, and at times feel they've lost control and aren't supported. I think the average student feels like he's overlooked because the people getting all the attention are the trouble-makers."

The board could deal with that problem, he said, by creating a uniform discipline code -- something other board candidates have called for as well.

"The students view suspension as a holiday," he said. "We need to look at in-school suspension, not turning them loose on the streets. Or maybe community service, making them clean up vandalism, for instance. One principal told me he spends 90 percent of his time on 10 percent of his students who cause problems. He needs to be able to spend 90 percent of his time working with 90 percent of his students."

Teachers and students also need a good environment in which to learn, Mr. Honaker said, noting that many schools are showing signs of neglect from lack of routine maintenance. "I think the board members have to leave Riva Road and visit every school in the county and find out firsthand what condition they're in," he said.

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