Board views school plan

Balto. County panel weighs strategy for Woodlawn Middle

Major improvement sought

1st system campus at risk of being taken over by state

April 30, 2001|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore County Board of Education met yesterday to review Superintendent Joe A. Hairston's plan to drastically improve pupil achievement at Woodlawn Middle School, a campus in danger of being taken over by the state.

For the most part, board members said they liked the plan, which calls for an immediate change in the school's learning environment, including the way teachers present lessons. A review of classroom practices by state and county educators revealed that Woodlawn teachers weren't meeting state and county curriculum requirements in English, math and reading, Hairston said.

Hairston and board President Donald L. Arnold won approval for the school improvement plan from the state Board of Education last week. The retreat yesterday at system headquarters in Towson was the first time a majority of board members had a chance to discuss the list of recommendations with Hairston and Deputy Superintendent Christine M. Johns.

Woodlawn, the first school in Baltimore County to be considered for state takeover because of low student performance, has two years to improve. If it fails to do so, the state could assign an educational contractor to take over school management.

The superintendent blamed the school's lack of academic progress on school officials, not children. "The children of Woodlawn did not create this situation," said Hairston, who added that at least three other county middle schools have similar academic problems. "We need to be more responsible. We have to have equity."

Hairston outlined a plan that will provide Woodlawn with six more teachers during the next school year, as well as a team of administrative advisers to help the school's principal and staff improve pupils' scores on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program exams. Pupils have performed generally well on the state's functional exams, Hairston said.

Three reading and writing resource teachers and one math resource teacher will be provided to help Woodlawn teachers -- many of whom are new to teaching -- cover the appropriate curriculum points in their lessons. All teachers assigned to the school will attend a summer workshop to sharpen their skills, Hairston said.

Hairston has the authority to determine which administrators and teachers will be assigned to the school, said Mark Beytin, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County.

Hairston said he wants to assign a police officer to help Woodlawn administrators with pupils who misbehave. He also said he seeks to hold quarterly community meetings to apprise parents and community members of progress and setbacks.

The school will receive help from a long list of administrators, some of whom will review Woodlawn's progress, perform classroom observations and provide feedback. Members of a "cluster leadership team" will work with elementary schools that feed into Woodlawn to ensure they are preparing pupils adequately.

Board member James R. Sasiadek, a school system administrator in Baltimore City, praised Hairston for considering feeder schools. "I'm really happy you are going to take a cluster approach," he told Hairston. "I think it will help as a reassurance of quality for the entire area."

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