Officials tour award-winning high school Eastern Technical named one of state's Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence

November 26, 1997|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Describing it as Maryland's model for vocational-technical learning, a high-powered delegation of state legislators and educators visited Eastern Technical High School yesterday to see what ranks it among the best in the county -- and the state.

The visit came one day after the State Department of Education named the Essex high school one of 11 Maryland Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence -- one of six in the Baltimore area.

"We believe we have an advantage at this school because we help students dream -- dream of what they want to do in the future," Eastern Principal Robert J. Kemmery told legislators and county and state educators. "The career identities that students pursue is the glue that holds everything together here."

Last year, Eastern became the first high school in Baltimore County -- and only the second in Maryland -- to achieve excellent ratings in every category on the state's annual report card, which measures attendance and student achievement on tests of basic skills.

The first high school to achieve that distinction was Centennial High School, in one of the wealthiest areas of Howard County. Eastern, by contrast, draws from some of Baltimore County's poorest neighborhoods.

Yesterday, with blue ribbons pinned to their shirts and jackets, Eastern students, teachers and administrators led members of the state Senate Budget and Taxation Committee's education subcommittee through computer laboratories, automobile repair shops and physical rehabilitation classrooms.

"We're real proud of our school," said senior Laura Yepez, 17, who led a pair of senators on a tour through the school. "Ever since I started here, Mr. Kemmery has talked about wanting our school to become a Blue Ribbon School. I'm so happy that it finally came true."

The 1,350-student high school draws applicants from eastern Baltimore County, offering career majors in subjects such as health care, auto repair, computer information technology, construction and engineering. About 850 eighth-graders apply each year for the school's 350 slots.

In the 1990s, Eastern has led the transformation of vocational-technical education in Baltimore County and in Maryland, requiring that all students take rigorous academic classes regardless of whether they plan to go to college.

"We need to compete with the world, and to do that, we need to set high standards for everyone," Kemmery said.

The school also has worked closely with businesses to bring the technology and expertise of the working world to the classroom and to ensure that students are being trained in the skills that companies need.

"This school is the state of the art in terms of seeking out every innovative program in Maryland," said state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick.

Baltimore County schools Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione told the senators that Eastern is "a model school for Baltimore County and a model school for the state."

"We're trying to replicate it in comprehensive high schools" by adding magnet programs, Marchione said. "We can spread out the programs that will draw students and replicate the atmosphere and climate we have here."

As senators walked through classes and saw students at work, all were impressed with the career-oriented focus of Eastern. Several said that other school districts should look at Eastern and find ways to copy its programs.

"We need to be offering our kids these kinds of programs, because many of them aren't going to college and aren't getting the kind of career training in high school that they need to get good jobs," said Sen. Gloria G. Lawlah, a Prince George's County Democrat who is chairwoman of the subcommittee that visited Eastern yesterday.

Lawlah and Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr., a Montgomery County Democrat, saw some students designing computer graphics and others practicing bandaging ankles and arms as part of the health care major.

They learned that Eastern students help serve as the on-site medical staff for school athletic events and heard senior Kathryn Chittenden describe a visit her class made to Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

"A helicopter arrived while we were there with a man from Cumberland who had been shot in the head," Kathryn recalled. "When we were watching the doctors work that day, you could see who wants to work with blood and who doesn't."

The senators sampled the product of another of the school's majors -- culinary arts. The students in that area operate a restaurant in the school, and prepared food for yesterday's visit.

County educators didn't let yesterday's visit pass without making a pitch for more money, particularly funding for the type of programs offered at Eastern.

Kemmery hopes to add another career area for 1999 -- chemical laboratory technician -- and needs to renovate classroom space and purchase equipment.

"We rely on the career tech-ed funding from the state -- keep that funding," Kemmery said. "That's the only way we can keep offering the programs we have here at Eastern."

Pub Date: 11/26/97

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