Principals seek more flexibility

School board says some aspects must remain uniform

`Don't thwart ingenuity'

Merits of seminar for ninth-graders debated at session

March 28, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Carroll's high school principals say they need more flexibility operating their schools and developing courses best suited to their enrollments.

"We want you to have discretion to run your schools, but we need consistency," said Susan W. Krebs, school board president. Areas such as high school curriculum, dress codes, and requirements for the National Honor Society should be the same at the county's six high schools, she suggested.

But programs that work at one high school are not always suited to another, principals said.

"Don't thwart ingenuity. It is the strength of our system," said George Phillips, principal of South Carroll High School. "Most initiatives started at the teacher ranks and blossomed up through the system."

Barry Gelsinger, assistant superintendent for instruction in Carroll schools, said the county has had many phenomenal successes in curriculum, but "there is not time to [be] growing every course in every school," he said. "We need consensus building within each building. We can't keep saying all these schools have to do the same things."

Randy Clark, Francis Scott Key High principal who has headed three other high schools in Carroll, said that schools need autonomy to adjust to their different needs.

In a lengthy work session yesterday, principals and school board tackled communication, consistency, innovative programs and teacher morale.

No decisions were reached and no actions were taken. The principals made a pitch for more staff, more resources, more parental involvement and smaller classes.

But with a tight budget making increases unlikely, Krebs asked what could be done with existing resources.

"Identify the target audience, determine the needs and meet those needs," Phillips said. "We are trying to be everything to everybody and we don't have the resources to do that."

Administration and management consume so much of the principals' days - several said they work a 70-hour week - that they have little time left to work on curriculum with teachers.

"The workload is killing us, with the amount of hours and the stress," said David Booz, principal at Century, the county's newest high school. "But I think my teachers feel they are heard."

Demands on teachers' time are as great. Phillips said he has to ask his teachers to cover about four evening games each season but he might soon have to double that request. Krebs said parents should be filling in the gaps at night games, not teachers. But that's an impossible task for a school such as South Carroll that has six parent volunteers in its athletic booster club, Phillips said.

"Get parents involved or tell them there won't be athletic programs," Krebs said.

The freshman seminar, a new course designed to help ninth-graders master skills needed to make the transition to high school, was mentioned frequently in the discussion.

"Teachers think the freshman seminar is wasting staff time and increasing class sizes," said Mary Kay Maurer, a Westminster High School teacher. "Teachers want to see the basics. Morale is so low and then you hear you have to do this."

Others argued the merits of the course.

"This is a way to give every kid competency without draining resources," said Steven Johnson, Carroll's director of curriculum and staff development. "This seminar is critical because some kids need the extra support to make it through."

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