School board asked to reject 4-period schedules

Plan might not meet Md. requirements, group says

February 02, 2003|By Laura Loh | Laura Loh,SUN STAFF

An outspoken group of Anne Arundel County residents has asked the school board to scrap a plan by Superintendent Eric J. Smith to move middle and high schools to four-period schedules this fall.

Members of the Coalition for Balanced Excellence in Education appealed Smith's decision, saying the new schedules might not comply with state curriculum requirements. The board could affirm Smith's plan, overturn it or decline to hear the matter. The group first voiced opposition to the schedules, which Smith says will provide consistent and better instruction countywide, at public hearings in December.

After the hearings, board members publicly said they supported Smith's decision, but did not vote on the plan because the superintendent has the authority to make scheduling changes.

Lothian parent Debra A. Booth, one of those named in the appeal, said she opposes the middle school schedule because it reduces science and social studies to half-year courses. "My daughter loves science," Booth said. "She goes to school for science."

Two years ago, the coalition of about 200 parents, teachers and residents won a fight with the school board over curriculum issues, prevailing upon state education officials to declare that the county was not giving some middle-schoolers enough art, health and physical education.

In its Jan. 17 appeal of the scheduling plan, the coalition argues that Smith did not adequately assess whether the schedules were in line with state curriculum requirements. The group also says Smith violated board policy regarding public participation by depriving the public an opportunity for "meaningful input."

An attorney for the school system rejected both claims, writing in papers filed with the board that state education officials have reviewed and approved the county's plan, and that the school system went "above and beyond the call of duty to solicit input."

In asking the board to dismiss the appeal, the school system argued that the parents did not demonstrate how their children would be harmed by the plan.

"I can tell you we are furiously working, both here at the central office and at the school level, to implement these schedules," school staff attorney Synthia Shilling said in an interview. "We're not going to stop the work."

Thomas Deming, the lawyer who filed the appeal, said he would file a response to the schools' motion by the board's Friday deadline.

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