Parents urge more funds for gifted classes

Courses and resources don't aid advanced pupils, critics tell school board

February 10, 2000|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Worried that their children are not being challenged, parents of exceptional pupils urged the Anne Arundel County school board last night to devote more resources to gifted-and-talented programs in elementary and middle schools.

Parents said the curricula for such programs are limiting and that school staff are not equipped to meet the needs of these students.

"My daughter says that the work is too easy, especially the math," said Maria Middleton, who has a third-grader at Arnold Elementary School. "She's embarrassed to show her spelling words to her friends in private schools."

Other issues addressed at the hearing included reducing class size, expansion of Southern Middle School and a new high school for the west county.

The hearing, which drew about 200 people to board headquarters in Annapolis, was the second and final public hearing on Superintendent Carol S. Parham's proposed $549 spending plan for fiscal 2001, which begins July 1.

Parham's spending plan, which she presented to the board last month, includes money for higher salaries for entry-level teachers and signing bonuses for teachers in hard-to-fill areas, such as math, science and special education.

The proposed budget is 10 percent higher than this year's $500 million budget and includes a $42 million increase in county money.

A large contingent from Waugh Chapel Elementary School told the board last night that it wanted smaller classes, more computers and a new parking lot.

Seven-year-old Mackenzie Mahr, a second-grader at Waugh Chapel, voiced her concerns.

"We need smaller classes to make our school a better place to learn," a composed Mackenzie told the board.

She impressed board president Paul Rudolph. "When I hear a student testify like that, I know we're doing something right," he said.

Parents also urged the board to make sure that expansion of Southern Middle School remains a priority in Parham's proposed capital budget.

Because of severe crowding at the school, Southern Middle eighth-graders take classes at Southern High School.

"We're determined to have the renovation completed and have our students returned to the school where they belong," said Suzanne Solier, whose 11-year-old daughter will attend Southern High next year.

County Councilman John J. Klocko III asked the board to consider a new high school in the west county before 2003, as recommended by Parham. He brought his Arundel High School yearbook from the 1970s to show that crowding has existed for decades.

Parham's spending plan also includes money to continue system-wide computer upgrades and strengthen school security; 55 new teachers to keep pace with enrollment growth; 10 new teachers to continue reducing first-grade classes to 20 pupils; and 19 reading teachers, one for each middle school.

County Council Chairman Daniel E. Klosterman Jr. has said that the county will probably not be able to make education funding the top priority it did last year, when it awarded the school system an extra $30 million in operating funds and $40 million in capital funds to repair and renovate aging school buildings.

The board will vote on Parham's funding request at its Feb. 16 meeting and send it to County Executive Janet S. Owens.

Owens will forward her proposal to the council, which will adopt a budget by the end of May.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.