Residents urge school board to keep initiatives intact Several hundred attend hearing on proposed budget

January 27, 1998|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,SUN STAFF

Several hundred Anne Arundel County students and parents came out last night to urge school board members to keep intact what they say are critical portions of the superintendent's proposed 1998-1999 school budget.

Advocates requested funding to remove asbestos from several Severna Park schools, hire more school psychologists and guidance counselors and add teachers to reduce overcrowded classrooms in northern Anne Arundel County schools.

They also testified in favor of one item not included in school Superintendent Carol S. Parham's budget: a new high school in west Anne Arundel County to reduce class sizes at overcrowded Arundel Senior High School.

The session at North County Senior High School in Ferndale was the first of two public hearings for recommendations from the public on the $492.9 million budget Parham proposed this month.

The board will hold a second meeting tomorrow at school board headquarters on Riva Road in Annapolis before coming up with its proposed budget in mid-February.

The county executive and County Council will approve a final budget in the spring.

Many of the students and parents who filed into the school stepped up to microphones last night to plead passionately for favorite programs.

"I believe class size has a direct impact on students' performance," said Charles Goldberg, the father of a first-grader at Point Pleasant Elementary School.

Goldberg asked the board to add more teachers so that class sizes stay within approved ranges, which are generally about 30 students per teacher.

"It is noisy when I work in a crowded class and hard for me to work without distraction," testified a fourth-grader from Point Pleasant Elementary, who favored reducing class sizes.

His comments drew applause and a standing ovation.

Alex Alexander, a sophomore at North County Senior High, said his school was so crowded that students must eat lunch in shifts, with the first shift beginning at 9: 30 a.m.

"That is not fun," he said.

Alexander also said he hoped the school board would retain a position in the budget proposed by Parham for an enrollment verifier, who would make sure noncounty residents are not attending North County Senior.

"For her proposal, I greatly applaud Dr. Parham," he said. "This position will pay for itself in no time."

School Board President Carlesa Finney commended the students for coming out to speak.

"Your input, your courage, your words have been great for us," she said.

Finney urged them to come back "and advocate for our children" when the County Council discusses the school system budget this spring.

Pub Date: 1/27/98

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