Baltimore Co. plans first arts-tech school


When Stuart Berger was named school superintendent for Baltimore County, Mary Cary knew her chance had come.

She scheduled a meeting with Dr. Berger, and prepared a two-page proposal for combining a performing arts curriculum with an existing vocational-technical program.

The meeting lasted less than a half hour. When it was over, Ms. Cary, who has never been a principal or an assistant principal, was named the new principal for Central School of Technology, located in the 900 block of York Road.

Now all she needs is the school board's approval, expected in October, to transform Central into the state's first combination art and technical school. Her program is scheduled to open in 1993 as a regular, four-year county school. Central currently has a three-year curriculum.

"Instead of being on a learning curve, I'm on a learning cliff," says Ms. Cary who, during her 27 years in the county school system, has taught grades six through 12 and worked as an English specialist and coordinator. "I'm learning something new every minute."

Whatever she may lack in experience, Ms. Cary makes up with enthusiasm. She smiles constantly as she talks about the school and its comprehensive program, combining visual, literary and performing arts with technology.

"This is going to be a program that's unique," she said. "We will have a broader range of course offerings than students can get in their home schools."

The school would still require application for admission. The curriculum would be open to students throughout the county, not just those in the central area. Ms. Cary thinks many of Central's students will stay and take advantage of the new curriculum. Those who don't will be able to go to one of the county's other vocational-technical schools.

In Central's new curriculum, carpentry students will build stages and sets instead of sheds. Electricity students will design stage lighting for school performances. Cosmetology students will work with stage make-up. Students in the multimedia department will use computers to design sets, stages and lighting, and possibly film productions for Channel 36, the school's in-house cable station.

"We're going to bring together theory and application," says Ms. Cary.

Another change at Central will be that students won't have to be bused between schools. Currently, students who attend Central spend a half day at the specialized school and take comprehensive courses such as English, science and social studies, at their home schools.

At the new Central, students would take required courses in the adjoining Carver building, currently used for administrative offices. Being part of a regular, comprehensive program will give the students a feeling of school spirit that they may lose when commuting between schools, said Ms. Cary. Cosmetology teacher, Mary Bridges, agrees.

"When the students are bused in, they miss out on a lot at their home school," she said. "This way, they'll be involved in everything."

Dr. Berger said changes may be in store for other schools as well where educators "have been told to go to the drawing board."

Quick decision-making is what educators have come to expect from the new superintendent. Since starting the job July 1, he has initiated a full-day kindergarten program in 32 county schools and made major changes within the system's administration.

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