Celebrating the future

Confidence: Principal H. Edward Parker is confident that high standards at Sollers Point/Southeastern Technical High will help his students succeed in their jobs.

May 25, 2000|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Principal H. Edward Parker has an odd way of keeping in touch with his former students: He does business with them.

Graduates of Sollers Point/Southeastern Technical High School have fixed Parker's cars, remedied his home's ailing air conditioning system and helped his mother and him through medical emergencies.

It's no surprise then that Parker has high hopes for the future.

"I have absolute confidence in the next generation," says Parker, whose school was honored yesterday for its certification by an international standards-setting group. "We'll be well taken care of. These kids won't be led blindly, and that's a good thing."

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's editions gave the wrong date for a ceremony marking an international certification for Sollers Point/Southestern Technical High School. The ceremony took place May 17.
The Sun regrets the error.

Sollers Point/Southeastern, Baltimore County's oldest technical training campus, is the model upon which schools such as Eastern and Western technical high schools were developed, Parker said.

Parker has been at Sollers Point/Southeastern for 23 years, on and off. And after three decades working for the Baltimore County school system -- first as a teacher, then as an administrator -- the 63-year-old Dundalk native, who battled prostate cancer about two years ago, plans to retire in January. But not without a celebration.

Sollers Point/Southeastern is the first technical high school in the nation to obtain certification from the International Organization for Standardization, a Geneva-based federation of standards-setting bodies from 130 nations.

Last week, Parker and about 300 guests, including Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione and County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, toasted the school's achievement.

"Boy, isn't this a great day?" said Parker. "I am the luckiest principal in the world. I am so proud of this school. This is a celebration for us all."

Parker is confident that the 823 students enrolled at the school will be better prepared for jobs in nursing, cosmetology, carpentry, electrical technology and computer-integrated manufacturing if they work under strict standards of production now. He has been told by business people that students with the certification on their resumes will leap ahead of other job applicants.

Carl Johnson, president of Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Sparrows Point Division, who attended the gala Wednesday, knows about ISO certification ratings, the name of which comes from the Greek word "isos," which means "equal."

"Bethlehem Steel was ISO-certified in 1993, and I can tell you, it is a rigorous process," said Johnson. "Basically, ISO auditors come in and look at all the processes and standards you have in writing and then they make sure that you do what you said you would do."

The certification process at Sollers Point/Southeastern, which took about 15 months, was an anxious time for Parker and his staff. Auditors descended on the campus and posed hundreds of questions about the school's budget, student rule book and parent-teacher communication network.

About two years ago, the Dundalk school became one of the first technical schools in the nation to add gifted and talented classes in automobile technology, nursing, computer manufacturing, culinary arts, information systems management and cosmetology.

Parker bought into the idea immediately, said Stephanie Zenker, a resource teacher in the school system's gifted education office who worked with Parker to set up the program.

"People kind of snicker when you say you can have a gifted program in a technical field, but all you have to say to them is, `Vidal Sassoon,' and they get it," Zenker said.

Sollers Point/Southeastern serves students who are bused in from five "home" high schools every day. They spend half of their school day at the campus. About 20 percent of the students have been identified with special learning needs, and 4 percent are considered gifted and talented.

On a recent day at Sollers Point/Southeastern, students in the culinary arts class baked cookies in a Vulcan Hart oven on loan from the company for testing purposes, said Jack Sheehe, the school's culinary arts instructor. Earlier in the day, students practiced making frosting roses in preparation for the multitiered cake that was served to guests at the ceremony last week.

"I've got former students working at the Hillendale Country Club, the White House and at a fancy French restaurant in Manhattan," said Sheehe. "They're excellent at what they do."

In the salon upstairs, senior Kendra Wallace, 17, of Dundalk was getting her hair colored a dark red while her client sat under a hair dryer. Meanwhile, Wallace's teacher, Peggy Tarburton, took a phone call from a salon owner who was desperate for a new stylist.

"We have at least three salon owners call every week trying to get one of our students," said Tarburton. "They are always looking for stylists, and with the training we provide here, our students are ready to go out and work right away."

Parker is overjoyed with the progress he and his staff have made at Sollers Point/Southeastern, a school to which he has been dedicated for more than two decades.

As he contemplates his retirement, Parker says he will miss the place but wants more time with his wife, Frances, who is the school system's chief auditor, his five children and his nine grandchildren, two of whom attend Sollers Point/Southeastern.

"I had planned to stay with this until I was 65, but you look at life differently when you've been through something like this," said Parker, referring to his recent battle with prostate cancer. The cancer has been in remission for a year and a half. "I'll miss it though, the people and the challenge."

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