Alternative high school is proposed Disruptive students would be placed in restrictive setting

Place of last resort

Board to hear plan for 120-seat facility at meeting today

January 03, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County may join the ranks of Baltimore-area school systems that take the most disruptive and menacing students from their high schools and give them a last chance at public school in a highly restrictive program.

A team of educators is recommending that the county establish a 120-seat high school of last resort for students who otherwise would be expelled.

If the school board approves the proposal, and county officials provide the money, the school could admit its first students in a year.

"This is for kids who are on the verge of being expelled," said Louis Apuzzio, coordinator of continuing education, and a member of the group that drafted the plan.

Mr. Apuzzio and other school staff members are to explain the program to school board members at today's meeting. If, as expected, board members agree to it, Superintendent Carol S. Parham will include start-up money in her proposed budget for the next school year. The budget is expected in two weeks.

"We are in favor of any program that helps the regular classroom teacher with discipline problems," said John Kurpjuweit, president of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County.

The county was considered forward-thinking 25 years ago when it opened the Learning Center for about 100 disruptive middle-schoolers. But suggestions to create a similar program for high school students went nowhere. While the school system has a variety of programs for students with drug or minor discipline problems, it has nothing comprehensive.

"We are in a crisis," said board member Thomas Twombly.

A program for high school students "is essential," said board member Maureen Carr-York.

Reports of violence up

Reports of school violence continue to climb, and expulsion hearings are ahead of last year, according to school officials. The number of fights more than tripled from 1993-1994 to last year.

Last fall, teachers complained that verbal and physical assaults by students went unpunished, and a group of parents at Meade Senior High School said student violence was rampant enough to warrant guards at the building.

"With the way the board and the public have been feeling, the superintendent thinks this may be an opportune time. This is an idea that has been banging around for 10 years or so," said Kenneth R. Lawson, associate superintendent for instruction.

Individual goals

The proposal calls for drafting individual plans, including academic and behavior goals, for each student by the student, parents and counselors.

Counseling would be mandatory for parents and students. Report cards would go out monthly. Students with two unexcused absences would be expelled.

Students would have to earn the privilege of returning to their regular school within in a year by earning points for good rTC behavior. That is one reason the proposal includes only ninth, 10th and 11th grades, said George McGhee, assistant principal of the Learning Center who headed the group that drafted the high school program.

Alternative schools elsewhere have high school graduation rates as high as 75 percent, proving that some children can be turned around, he said.

Dress code

Students at the alternative high school would have a dress code. Jeans and hats would be banned, and the boys would have to wear neckties.

"When you were in your Sunday clothes, how likely were you to get into a conflict?" Mr. McGhee said. "Our emphasis is on other goals, rather than style."

Carolyn Roeding, who had suggested an alternative high school two years ago when she was president of the Anne Arundel County Council of PTAs, said yesterday she has "grave concerns" about the proposal.

"I'm a little concerned that it is going to become a dumping center for special ed and minorities," she said.

The percentage of learning-disabled students at the Learning Center is more than twice the county average, and not all special education services are available there. But Mr. McGhee said that smaller classes and tutoring make up for it and that would be the case at the high school.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.