Carver merges arts, technology A delicate balance: County officials say Carver is the only Maryland high school combining the visual and performing arts with what used to be called "vocational skills."

The Education Beat

February 14, 1996|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

The difference between the Carver Center for Arts and Technology and standard vocational high schools was summed up best the other day by Carver's founding principal, Mary Cary.

"Welding," Ms. Cary said enthusiastically, "is an art."

A visitor to the 2 1/2 -year-old Towson high school last week could see this philosophy in practice. To be sure, welding is a vocational end, but it's also a performing and visual art. The two routes merge in the Towson "magnet" high school.

The same goes for painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, cosmetology, carpentry and photography -- even food preparation. In the Carver Cafe, a singularly noninstitutional bistro-sans-vin, lunch is served carefully, colorfully, quickly -- and at a reasonable price by students learning the culinary arts.

County officials say Carver is the only Maryland high school combining the visual and performing arts with what used to be called "vocational skills" but are now grouped under the more euphonious term "technology."

Carpentry students learn about home and building construction, but they also build theater sets. Yes, cosmetology students learn how to cut hair.

"That's what we always think of when we think of cosmetology," said the county's magnet schools director, Anita Stockton, "but Carver goes several steps beyond with the makeup and hairstyling aspects of the theater industry."

Four hundred students have applied for the 150 openings in next fall's class of 2000, Ms. Cary said. That makes Carver one of Baltimore County's hottest tickets. Students come from every middle school zone in Baltimore County, some of them getting up as early as 5 a.m. to get to bus pickup points.

Carver does many things differently. According to Ms. Cary, the school ignores report cards, attendance and behavior records in deciding which students to admit. Instead, applicants undergo interviews and auditions. Midway through its third school year, Carver has yet to graduate a class, but its student body is 25 percent black, and it has one of Baltimore County's highest special education enrollments.

Eric Kordek, one of Carver's visual arts students, has already won a scholarship from the Maryland Institute, College of Art. "I don't think I could have gotten there [the Maryland Institute] without coming here," he said.

Carver, which has returned to the name it held as a black school during segregation days, is one of those rare institutions conceived, promoted -- and now led -- by one person, veteran county educator Mary Cary.

She telephoned former Superintendent Stuart Berger even before he left Kansas, Ms. Cary said. "I pitched the idea, he said he liked it and suggested we talk about it when he got here. That was the beginning."

The Berger identity -- and the cost -- might also carry the seeds of Carver's diminution as a high school magnet. The county's 24 magnet schools clearly show the stamp of Dr. Berger, who was fired last summer. And Carver, with its cluster of expensive technical programs, is one of five magnets the county calls most costly to operate, according to Dr. Stockton.

The magnets already are in line for a $1 million cut in interim Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione's proposed $623 million 1997 budget.

New superintendents usually want to start their own programs, stamp their own names on "innovation." The predecessor's programs never seem quite adequate (especially if he was fired).

Carver would be wise to prepare to sing for its supper.

Educators' apparent angst

Think downsizing, office infighting, bad management and generally low morale are worse in your business than, say, in higher education? Take comfort.

Academics gathered in Baltimore for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science concluded their convention yesterday with sessions devoted to careers in college and university science and the state of research in research-oriented universities like Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland College Park.

Education Beat attended both and observed plenty of angst. The researchers are worried about cutbacks in federal support. The University of Rochester recently sent shock waves through academia by eliminating its mathematics doctorate program -- in effect, downsizing.

Meanwhile, there's a perpetual oversupply of young people with doctorates in the sciences. Older professors aren't retiring in the numbers long predicted, creating a "generation gap" and making it difficult for women and minorities to gain equality in numbers and pay. And foreign scientists are pushing Americans out of laboratories and classrooms in the hard sciences and engineering.

In a session titled "Can Women Scientists 'Have a Life'?" researcher Paula M. Rayman answered, frankly, it's extremely difficult. And Shirley Vining Brown, a black researcher for the Educational Testing Service who studies black female scientists, said many women of color are frustrated by the lack of black males in their profession. It's a bad place to find a husband, she said.

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