North Carroll principal appointed curriculum chief for county schools

November 10, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

The Carroll County school system has a new director of curriculum, but now North Carroll High School won't have a principal.

Gregory Eckles will be doing a little of both jobs for at least the immediate future, while school officials start the search for his replacement at North Carroll, a school that has one of the county's most innovative approaches -- a four-period day.

Dr. Eckles was named the new director of curriculum and staff development, a key position that plays a lead role in what goes on in classrooms.

The appointment by the school board at its meeting yesterday was the latest in a set of domino promotions activated by the retirement of R. Edward Shilling as superintendent in April.

"The most important thing for me is that North Carroll High School runs well," said Peter B. McDowell, director of secondary education for Carroll County schools.

"We have too much invested in North Carroll High not to make sure it continues" to progress.

Dr. Eckles has been at North Carroll since 1987, and two years ago he led the school in switching to a four-period day, an idea tried three years ago for the first time in Maryland.

"Greg, I am excited for you, but I am truly sorry for us at North Carroll High School," Cheryl A. McFalls, a parent and former school board president, said after the school board voted on the promotion.

"The four-mod day has worked extremely well," said Mrs. McFalls, who has a daughter in the school. "I just am sorry Dr. Eckles will not be at North Carroll High School."

Each of the four periods, also called "mods" or modules, is 90 minutes long. The courses generally last a semester. The other four high schools in Carroll County have seven 45-minute periods, with each course lasting one year.

North Carroll High staff members voted for the change two years ago because they wanted more time within a class period to do hands-on and participatory work. Proponents say students can concentrate better on four subjects at a time than on seven.

The plan also allows students to take more courses over their high school career -- eight courses a year instead of seven.

Dr. Eckles said the four-period day has worked well and that its success results from something that won't change: a good system of faculty contribution to the decision-making and implementation.

"I have such confidence in the staff, and the process we used for change is not top-down," Dr. Eckles said. "It has been a consensus-building process. Hopefully, we have set up a model that is ongoing."

Mr. McDowell said he would look for a well-rounded, intelligent person to be principal, and that experience in the four-period day will not be necessary.

"I think great principals are great principals," Mr. McDowell said, noting that Dr. Eckles had never worked at a school with four periods before he joined North Carroll.

Science teacher John Lynam said he was confident that the success of the four-period day would continue. He said the changes in leadership at the school have always been for the better.

"I hope that tradition continues, and I have faith that it will," Mr. Lynam said.

In his new position, Dr. Eckles will lead a team of supervisors for each subject area and in special education and testing. He also will chair the curriculum council, which screens literature and textbooks before the school board approves them.

He replaces Gary Dunkleberger, who was promoted in September to assistant superintendent for instruction, replacing Brian Lockard. Dr. Lockard was promoted to superintendent when Mr. Shilling retired in July.

Dr. Dunkleberger was often on the hot seat about outcomes-based education, a philosophy the county school system has adopted. Dr. Eckles said he is prepared to continue leading the schools in that approach.

Under the outcomes approach, clear goals are set for what students will learn by the end of a unit or course, or by graduation.

Dr. Eckles was on the committee that in 1989 set the stage for improving schools through such a method. He also has been on the essential-curriculum committee, which is focusing the curriculum on what knowledge and skills are the most important in each course, with room for adding other elements when teachers or students have time.

"I believe very strongly in outcomes-based education," he said.

Dr. Eckles, 48, came to North Carroll seven years ago from Albemarle High School in Charlottesville, Va., where he was an assistant principal. He began his career as a science teacher 26 years ago in the Upper Dublin School District in Pennsylvania and became a supervisor of science for Albemarle County Schools in 1980.

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