New high school principal finds same old hallways, many new faces

August 31, 1994|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Sun Staff Writer

Oliver Wittig, Glen Burnie High School's new principal, is back walking the hallways and buildings he knew when he was the school's assistant principal from 1970 to 1972.

Yet life has changed around the six-building campus. Half of the school's administrators are new. And he still has to commit to memory the names and faces of the 110 staff members and 1,980 students.

"I couldn't walk down the hall and call all the names of my teachers" now, said Mr. Wittig, 57. "I just met half of them" last Tuesday.

Mr. Wittig's arrival at Glen Burnie High is part of a reorganization that county schools Superintendent Carol S. Parham announced June. The changes sent Glen Burnie High's former principal, Midgie Sledge, to Arundel High.

Mr. Wittig, whose wife and two children graduated from Glen Burnie High, began his career in the school system in 1959, teaching math and English at what was then Marley Junior High School. It is now Marley Middle School.

For the past 12 years, he was principal at the 1,800-student Severna Park High School. He moved to Severna Park last year, after having lived in Glen Burnie for 22 years.

He said he'll take a cautious approach as he begins his tenure at the county's second largest high school.

"I'm not going to come in and be the broom that sweeps clean," he said.

The first year will be best spent getting acquainted. He'll also stick to the plans and goals developed by the former principal, Ms. Sledge, and her focus team.

One of those goals is to reduce student absenteeism.

About 200 students were absent from class on any given day last year. This was partly due to the way the school is laid out.

Instead of going out the front door to French, I could go out the back door to Roy Rogers," said Mr. Wittig, a tall bespectacled man who has worked in the county school system for 35 years.

Mr. Wittig also plans to enforce the rules on truancy. Teachers will continue taking roll call and will closely question students who return from absences without notes from their parents. The names of absent students will be kept on an electronic list.

At the end of each day, the parents of those absent will receive a call from "Uncle Guido," a computer. It will call for 2 1/2 hours in the evening and relay Mr. Wittig's voice, asking parents if they knew their child was not in school.

Students who continue to be absent for no legitimate reason may find a truant officer at their home, or face being expelled, said Mr. Wittig.

One idea he is bringing from Severna Park is to promote and compliment students who do well.

Along with handing out honor roll bumper stickers, Mr. Wittig plans to use a little positive reinforcement. Students who do well and improve their attendance will get prizes, such as Subway coupons.

"Kids will do anything with incentive, particularly if they can eat it," he said.

Mr. Wittig also said he wants to upgrade the computer lab.

"I'd like to do whatever we can to get computer technology into the schools as fast as we can," he said.

One major change that could occur would be adding one or two periods to the school day.

Mr. Wittig said he is concerned about the affect new graduation requirements will have on ninth-graders and 10th-graders. These students now have to take three years of science, instead of two.

Mr. Wittig believes a longer school day would give students more leeway in making up missed class time.

Though he would need the school superintendent's approval to extend the school day, he feels it is an idea worth pursuing.

"We have to do something or else we're going to have a lot of kids not graduate on time and that's not going to sit too well with mom and dad," he said.

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