District plan is up for debate

IB program is focus of school board meeting today

October 05, 2005|By ANICA BUTLER | ANICA BUTLER,SUN REPORTER

The Anne Arundel County school board is scheduled to again discuss whether to expand the district's International Baccalaureate program at its meeting today.

At its Sept. 21 meeting, the board debated for more than an hour whether to approve Superintendent Eric J. Smith's proposal to expand the IB program to Meade High School. The program, a rigorous curriculum that is recognized around the world, is offered at Annapolis and Old Mill high schools.

School system officials have said that, because of the demand for the program, failure to expand to Meade would mean the district would have to hold a lottery.

This would mean some students would be denied entry to the program if the number of applicants exceeds 100 and participation of minorities could not be ensured.

In information provided to the board, Smith makes the argument that families relocating to Fort Meade because of military base closings and realignment would find Meade - and Anne Arundel County - more attractive if the program were expanded.

Smith is not alone in that sentiment. Last month, Aris Melissaratos, secretary of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, and Col. Kenneth O. McCreedy, the commander of Fort Meade, spoke in favor of the expansion.

"I would like to change the largely undeserved reputation that Meade High School has an inferior educational institution. In my view, it is imperative to send a clear message to those workers contemplating a move that the county is committed to lifting its schools to the front ranks. And, Meade High School will be viewed as a barometer of that commitment," McCreedy told the Maryland Military Installation Strategic Planning Council on Friday.

After the last board meeting, Smith called the board's discussion and tabling of the vote frustrating. Smith is stepping down Nov. 23 to take an unpaid position with Harvard University.

But school board members say the issue isn't simple.

"It's a hard decision," Tricia Johnson, vice president of the board, said yesterday. "There are so many needs and such limited funds. So unfortunately, we can't fund everything."

Johnson said the board also will be voting on other issues today. Funding the expansion would cost the district an additional $200,000 next year, officials say. Without expanding the program, the projected cost of having IB at Annapolis and Old Mill would be nearly $1.4 million next year.

Sun reporters Bradley Olson and Phillip McGowan contributed to this article.

anica.butler@baltsun.com

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