"The conversation consisted of my insisting that the [assignment] letter stated that we were to set a date for an interview, and my being told that I was not coming to Western," Mrs. Scott recalled. Eventually, she overcame obstacles to become the school's first black teacher. In 1959, she became director of the physical education department, a position she holds today.
"This is what I wanted to do, and the department was good, and those in the department became loyal friends," said Mrs. Scott.
By 1960, Western had long ceased its role as a training school for teachers. Some graduates became prominent in fields such as theater and politics. Sarah Tilghman Hughes, for example, became a U.S. District Court judge in Texas in 1961. She administered the presidential oath to Lyndon B. Johnson aboard Air Force One after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.
For other students, Western didn't seem to be advancing fast enough.
Beverly (Grodnitzky) Burns recalled telling a guidance counselor that she wanted a career that would let her see the world. Her counselor encouraged her to try her wings as a flight attendant.
"What about being a pilot? She never mentioned being a pilot at all," said Mrs. Burns, scowling at the memory. The 1967 graduate now works for Continental Airlines. She was the first woman in the world to captain a 727 aircraft and the first to captain a 747 jumbo jet. "There's nothing wrong with being a flight attendant, but when I went in there I should have been given the full range of options."
Mr. Franko, the guidance department head, recalled, "Western in the '50s and '60s was a little girls' finishing school. The girls were taught then to be nurses, teacher, secretaries. Those were the options."
But times were a'changing.
"In the late '60s and early '70s there was a sense of revolt in the land," Mr. Franko said. "The girls were beginning to question their position in society, and when that change occurred, Western, like it always has, reflected that."
ONE FOR ALL?
During the next decade, reforms including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prompted many to question the need for single-sex public schools in Baltimore and around the country. The amendment barred the spending of federal funds on educational programs open exclusively to a single sex. It helped erode the gender-based barriers that had blocked the paths to many professions.
By the mid-1970s, Poly, the boys' high school that sits next door to Western, and City, across town, had gone coed.
By the early 1980s, despite outcry from alumni, declining enrollment forced Eastern to admit boys. The school later was merged with Lake Clifton Senior High.
According to education officials, there is only one other all-girls public high school in the country: the Philadelphia High School for Girls, which opened four years after Western.
Though Western's all-girls classification has been assailed many times, state administrators still contend that the school does not violate the federal law.
"Every year I get at least one letter challenging Western's single-sex status," said Dr. Grasmick, the Western alumna and state superintendent of schools. "The truth is, if a boy wishes to get a coed education in one of the courses in Western's curriculum, it is available -- somewhere else."
Dr. Grasmick wants to see the school continue to serve girls, but not necessarily for sentimental reasons.
"The state has set performance standards and as you look at schools in Baltimore City, Western is clearly at the top, or is the top," she said. "As I look at it as far as its effectiveness, Western is extremely successful. I think there is a rationalization now that, particularly for girls, students are faring better in single-sex situations."
During the past 20 years, about 85 percent of Western's graduates have advanced to college; about 55 percent of the city's graduates have, according to school officials. The dropout rate has been low: During the 1991-1992 school year, city schools had a 16.4 percent dropout rate while Western's was 1 percent. Western girls outscored city students overall on Maryland standard reading and math tests for the same year.
The expectation of Western girls is that they'll fare better in this educational environment; it pervades the school's recruitment rhetoric, the campus culture and the expressions of pride heard so often from the alumnae. However, in 1994, success for Western means preparing 1,250 girls to find their way in a world that now bombards them with options -- some not so healthy.