A program to restructure some of the county's focus schools, in the works eight months, could get its start at Phelps Luck Elementary School next year.
The school system has deemed 14 Howard County schools worthy of extra resources because of low scores on statewide tests.
To bring about improvement in these schools, Superintendent Michael E. Hickey told the school board last week that he wants to implement radical changes, beginning with a pilot program at Phelps Luck. The program would cost about $250,000, Hickey said.
"If we could show breakthrough performance in a school that heretofore has not been able to do that, then $250,000 is a cheap price to pay," Hickey said.
Hickey has been considering plans to revamp focus schools since March. He has met with the principals to discuss strategies that could best help pupils achieve.
The five most critical elements of the program proposed Thursday are:
Having assistant principals work 12 months instead of 10, as principals do
Requiring teachers to work 11 months
Extending the school day for selected pupils at least 45 minutes
Stretching the school year to include mandatory summer school for selected pupils.
Using the administrative transfer policy selectively; the policy allows principals to move teachers involuntarily to other schools at the end of the year.
The program also might include adding a parent-community outreach position at the school and increasing staff development, Hickey said.
Phelps Luck Principal John Morningstar said he would be happy to have the extra resources.
"It's got to help us," Morningstar said. "I think it'll be a very positive thing for the school and the school system. What we want to do is help kids."
After testing supervisor Leslie Wilson told the board of the stagnant results of this year's Maryland School Performance Assessment Program, some board members said "breakthrough strategies" need to be employed at all schools.
Howard County MSPAP scores fell from an average of 60.1 to 59.3 this year after six consecutive years of improvement. The state has set a goal of 70 -- meaning 70 percent of pupils performing at the satisfactory level -- in each school system by 2000.
"I think we need to apply some breakthrough strategies across the board and not just at our focus schools," said board member Stephen C. Bounds. "We are essentially performing at a pretty flat level as a system."
"If we could invest in staff development, we would see payoff," said Associate Superintendent Sandra J. Erickson.
On Thursday, Sandra H. French was elected board chairwoman, replacing Karen B. Campbell, and Jane B. Schuchardt was elected vice chairman, succeeding Bounds.
Sun staff writer Jamie Smith Hopkins contributed to this article.