State schools superintendent tours area schools

April 07, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE

by Ric Dugan / staff photographer

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School super

A shark snatches up its prey as five Boonsboro Elementary School fourth-graders watch from the safety of their classroom computer screen.

"You can't see that in an encyclopedia," says Principal Richard Reynolds.

On Monday, the students demonstrated for Maryland Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick how computer technology lets them see and hear the animals they're studying.

"You have to flip through all the pages in books," student Andy Brabson told her. By using a computer program, he quickly can find out an animal's brain size, number of teeth and life span.


Boonsboro Elementary was one stop on a whirlwind morning tour for Grasmick, who also visited Springfield Elementary School and the Job Development Center in Smithsburg.

Grasmick came to Washington County in part to evaluate new Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett Jr.

"I had very good feelings about his leadership," she said.

She also offered her thoughts on cutting class sizes in grades one through three, an issue being debated both locally and nationally.

Grasmick said that some people have placed too much emphasis on class size as a magic solution.

"I certainly don't think we should have burgeoning class sizes," she said.

But research shows that class size would have to be reduced substantially to make a difference in learning, she said.

When California tried to trim its class sizes, schools couldn't find enough qualified teachers or classroom space, she said.

Class size became an issue in January, when President Clinton called for average an class size of 18 in grades one through three.

Washington County would need 86 new classrooms and 86 new teachers to meet that goal, according to Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Theresa Flak.

Last month, parents and teachers spoke up at school board budget hearings in favor of reducing class sizes.

Bartlett's proposed budget calls for adding 38 new teachers, including 13 reading teachers, a step he said would reduce the teacher-to-student ratio somewhat.

Class size is not a problem at Washington County Job Development Center, where Grasmick saw how students with disabilities receive individual instruction.

Grasmick, who worked in special education for 15 years, said she was impressed with the dedication of the staff.

The school has 71 full-time students ages 15 to 21. About 6 percent of the county's special education students go to such specialized schools.

The school teaches clerical skills, woodworking, life skills and academics.

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