Despite the urging of students, parents, school administrators, politicians and civic leaders, the Anne Arundel County Board of Education voted yesterday against expanding the school system's International Baccalaureate program to Meade High School next year.
Departing Superintendent Eric J. Smith had recommended that the year-old program, a rigorous curriculum similar to Advanced Placement courses that is offered at Annapolis and Old Mill high schools, be expanded to Meade because of demand for the classes and to make the school more attractive to families moving to the area.
During the sometimes tense debate, board members, who first took up the matter at their Sept. 21 meeting, repeatedly said they did not have enough information to approve the expansion. The chief complaint from board members was that there is no strategic plan for the future of the program.
"There are unanswered questions," said board member Edward P. Carey. "Where do we go from here? What's the next step?"
Smith replied that he and the board have been operating under a "clear, concise plan" for the last three years - his tenure as superintendent - referring to the board's adoption of goals for the school system.
But some of the information that was provided was less than clear, one board member said.
Enrique M. Melendez disagreed with the assertion that if the program is not expanded next year, a lottery will have to be held, meaning some students might be excluded.
"But what did we hear today? Annapolis [High School] is under capacity," he said after the meeting, adding that a lottery wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.
Board members also said they would like to consider other options, including implementing the IB program at every high school or creating a math and science magnet school.
A few board members said they had heard from parents - who were not among those who testified at yesterday's meeting - that they are not in favor of expanding the IB program to Meade.
Six board members voted against the expansion. Paul G. Rudolph and Michael G. Leahy, voted in favor of it.
With the superintendent leaving the system next month to take an unpaid position at Harvard University, it was unclear yesterday when the board will again discuss the future of the IB program.
Melendez said the board will have to eventually make some decisions.
"It's one of our programs," he said. "We've got to revisit it."