Calls to police from Howard County high schools decreased by about 14 percent after two county police officers were assigned to patrol the schools full time last year, according to school statistics released yesterday.
The officers have worked at the schools as instructors, mentors and coaches since April 1996, when the High School Liaison Program, which links the county Board of Education and the Howard Police Department, began.
"This information seems to show that this program is a good thing," board member Stephen C. Bounds said at a meeting yesterday.
Because of the positive results, six additional police officers were assigned to the schools part time this spring, said Eugene Streagle, instructional coordinator for the high schools.
For most problems, calls to police from the high schools were less frequent from August 1996 to January 1997 than in the same period the previous year, even though two high schools opened in fall 1996, Streagle said.
"These numbers are not scientific, but I think we can see that the officers' presence is having a significant impact," he said. "There has been an incredible relationship established between the police and the school system."
Calls concerning drugs decreased from 29 to eight, those for tobacco from 32 to 19 and those for assaults from 38 to 27, according to the school system.
"I've heard from many students that they feel safe with the officers in the schools," said Rebecca Gifford of Wilde Lake High School, a student representative on the school board.
Each of the six new officers assigned to the program will work four hours a month, rotating among the high schools, Streagle said.
This year, Officer Ann Bailey -- one of the two full-time officers who inaugurated the program -- left the Police Department to become a teacher. The other officer, Mark Richmond, will spend most of his time at Wilde Lake and Howard high schools this year, Streagle said.
Bailey's position will be filled as soon as possible, he said.
Also yesterday, the board moved toward a consensus on classroom grouping, an issue they said might best be decided by teachers at each school rather than by school administrators systemwide.
The term grouping refers to dividing students into segments based on their achievement.
"I understand the spirit behind wanting to manage all this centrally," said Associate Superintendent Sandra J. Erickson. "But we need to put trust in the teachers and train teachers to make these decisions."
Sandra French, chairwoman of the school board, said: "This whole issue is broader than just grouping on different levels. It's just such a mess."
The comments came during the board's second work session to discuss a 180-page evaluation of Howard middle schools that was issued in October and county educators' response to it in May.
The 18-month evaluation, conducted by a 16-member citizens committee and two university professors hired as consultants, has prompted a broad debate on the direction of middle schools.
For many years, education officials have tended to view middle schools as a gentle transition from elementary school to high school.
But a growing number of parents and teachers appear to want middle schools to spend more time preparing students for the academic rigors of high school.
Among other issues raised in the evaluation, the board discussed achievement by black students, remediation, curriculum and the gifted-and-talented program yesterday.
The board also held a public hearing on a proposed smoking policy. A discussion and vote was scheduled for Sept. 25.
Pub Date: 8/29/97