Parents of Wilde Lake Middle School students came out en masse last night to stand up for a school they believe in.
With people spilling into the hall at the standing-room-only Back-to-School Night, parents rallied around a school that received a blow when 63 children transferred out of Wilde Lake Middle this year to Lime Kiln Middle School in Fulton.
Fifty of those pupils are from the Clemens Crossing neighborhood. Their parents sent them to Lime Kiln because they doubted the quality of education at Wilde Lake Middle. Test scores that lag behind other county schools and complaints about classroom control and teacher quality at Wilde Lake prompted Clemens Crossing parents to pool $37,800 to bus their children to Lime Kiln.
Wilde Lake Principal Brenda Thomas said last night's turnout was the biggest she had seen in years. The showing, she said, was indicative of parents' belief in the school.
Thomas said her school took no extra measures to prove anything to parents who might have been concerned by news reports.
"The school speaks for itself," Thomas said. "There is no need for me to do any extra. The teachers are enthusiastic, the students are enthusiastic."
David Titman, who volunteers at the school even though his son graduated from Wilde Lake three years ago, shouted: "This middle school, Wilde Lake Middle School, is one of the best middle schools in Howard County. Those people in Lime Kiln Middle School don't know what they're missing!"
Titman's rallying cry was applauded by parents and teachers.
"I'm not real concerned about what the people do about moving their children," said Frances Draper, whose son, Aaron, is new this year to the sixth grade and Wilde Lake Middle. "We judge by what we experience. I know that it's parent involvement that makes a difference, and we've found committed teachers here, administrators and parents."
Alvia McDaniels sat at the front of her daughter's homeroom class, listening attentively to sixth-grade teacher Gina Stokes. When Stokes mentioned that her class would soon be taking a weeklong field trip to the Goddard Space Flight Center, and that Wilde Lake was the only school in Maryland to do so, McDaniels nudged her daughter, Demetria Leonard, and beamed.
Many parents said last night they wanted a quality education as well as pupil diversity -- Wilde Lake has more of a racial mix than Lime Kiln -- and weren't daunted by rumors of discipline problems and poor test scores.
At Wilde Lake, Demetria, who is black, shares a class with Max Annenberg, who is white, Magaly Segovia, who is Hispanic, and students of various backgrounds. That's the way Shigeyo Ibrahim likes it for her son, Yimaj, who is half-Japanese and half-Ethiopian.
"I certainly don't want my son going to a school that's only 3 percent minority, where nobody looks like him," Ibrahim said. "We wanted to put him in a place where the kids really represent the world."