School's in for members of board Students sent them invitations

November 16, 1995|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

Yesterday was the first time Gary W. Bauer spent a whole day in high school in 30 years.

"Things haven't changed that much," said Mr. Bauer, who, like his colleagues on the Carroll County Board of Education, accepted an invitation to shadow a student government leader for a day. Mr. Bauer spent the day with Colin Bisasky, who is president of the Liberty High School student government organization and a senior.

"I think it was pretty productive," Colin said. "It's better than just ducking in and out of a few classes."

Cori Martin, who attends Westminster High School and is the student representative to the school board, invited the grown-ups to match up with the students.

Carolyn Scott, a school board member, shadowed a student last month at Francis Scott Key High School. She had found in her invitation a note to wear jeans and bring a backpack. Would she do so?

"Well, I don't own a backpack," she said.

Ms. Scott came away from her experience rather impressed with a boy who sat near her at lunch. He was reading Thoreau, and she asked him for what class.

"He said, 'I didn't get a chance to finish it this summer.' I was impressed," Ms. Scott said.

C. Scott Stone shadowed a student at Francis Scott Key High School and was struck by the crowding. (Even though Mr. Stone lives in Hampstead, he chose to go across the county to Key."My daughter goes to North Carroll High School, and she would have my head [if I went there]," he said.)

"The halls in the school are terribly crowded when the classes let out," he said.

And that isn't even one of the more crowded schools, he was told by Peter B. McDowell, director of secondary education.

The halls at Sykesville and Westminster West middle schools were so crowded that principals adopted staggered passing periods.

"And it didn't seem to me the allotted time for lunch was sufficient," Mr. Stone said. "By the time I'd get something to eat and walk to the table and sit down, the bell would ring."

Ms. Scott said she had enough time for lunch, but it may have been because the assistant principal ushered her to the front of the line.

It would be nice if students could have more time to eat and socialize, Mr. Stone suggested.

Mr. McDowell said that is exactly what administrators do not want. Lunch is among the most volatile times of the day, he said. That's why teachers and administrators are assigned to monitor the room. At Liberty yesterday, as quiet as the cafeteria was, with no sign of a fight, teachers stood watchful as Secret Service agents.

Lunch used to be only 25 minutes, until teachers negotiated for an extra five minutes in the 1980s, Mr. McDowell said. As for time to eat, he said, it does not take long for a teen-ager.

"We used to laughingly say that if it was possible to put a hinge in the middle of the plate, some of the boys could take care of their lunch in a matter of seconds," Mr. McDowell said.

Ms. Scott said she noticed that students stand for the Pledge of Allegiance in the morning, but they don't say it aloud.

She asked Cori about it this month at a school board meeting.

"Some of the kids say, 'Why do I have to stand up?' " Cori said.

Teaching styles have changed, Mr. Bauer said, since he graduated from Southern High School in Baltimore in 1965.

"But it's still learning the subjects as always," he said.

And Colin has some meaty subjects: Japanese I, physics, British literature, typing (not one typewriter in the room -- all practicing is done on computers that are out of date for anything other than keyboarding practice), French IV, ancient history and introductory analysis (an upper-level math course).

"If I was smart I would have taken two gyms, two study halls, marriage, food prep," said Colin, who has most of his graduation requirements down but still takes challenging courses.

Mr. Bauer went along, but did not participate in the academics of the class, or take the British literature quiz on John Donne's "Meditation 17" and sonnets.

In French IV, he said, "I was completely lost." He would have been equally lost in the Japanese class, except that the teacher was unable to make it. The school opened two hours late yesterday because of the weather, and the Japanese teacher had to go to another school in Baltimore County where she teaches.

Both Mr. Bauer and Colin felt the most productive part of the shadowing experience was at lunch. Mr. Bauer got a chicken patty and oven fries from the cafeteria while Colin retrieved a sandwich and cherry Coke from his locker. As they ate, they asked each other questions. "Why can't they build another high school?" asked Colin. Mr. Bauer said it all depends on state formulas that determine crowding.

Mr. Bauer asked Colin about grammar, spelling, and how well Carroll schools teach it.

Colin had much to say about how the teaching of writing falls through the cracks. Middle and high school teachers expect students to know it, but they often haven't learned it in elementary school, he said. Colin said he has learned much of his English grammar in French class.

At 2:30 p.m., the two parted. Mr. Bauer went to work at Engine Co. 46 on Reisterstown Road in Baltimore, where he is a pump operator for the Fire Department.

Before he became a firefighter, Mr. Bauer attended Towson State University, although he didn't graduate, saying he wasn't motivated at that point in his life.

"I started out to be a teacher," he said.

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