Several Howard County schools will devise their own education plans next year as part of a new "school-based management" program approved by the Board of Education.
The plan, approved last week, allows teachers, students, parents, and school administrators to take control of curriculum, finances, personnel and operation. All schools have been invited to apply, but only six will be chosen to participate.
Advocates say the program will free schools from cumbersome bureaucracies by encouraging education plans that best suit their students' needs.
Although many Howard County schools -- including Cedar Lane, Centennial Lane Elementary and Mount Hebron High -- practice some form of site-based management, the pilot program would give them greater freedom, said Associate Superintendent James R. McGowan. Prince George's and Montgomery counties also practice school-based management.
The schools must comply with board policies and all laws pertaining to school operation.
The approved countywide core curriculum also remains in effect.
Interested schools must submit proposals by January. Schools will be chosen in February, and the pilot program will begin in June.
The program, which will end in June 1997, will cost about $70,000.
At Centennial Lane Elementary, two committees handle management, curriculum and instructional issues.
Parents work on subcommittees that study everything from math to spelling to improving human relations at the school.
"It's a partnership with the parents," said Principal Friedel Warner.
Decisions are made by consensus.
"The bottom line is: Can people agree to it?" Ms. Warner said.
At Mount Hebron High School, where school-based management has been practiced since 1986, students are rewarded with positive phone calls for good behavior.
A group of 50 ninth-graders is participating in an interdisciplinary pilot program that teaches better note-taking and organizational skills, and the students' performance is closely monitored by teachers.
Mount Hebron Principal Edgar Markley calls school-based management "teacher empowerment."
"It re-energizes them," Mr. Markley said of teachers.
Ms. Warner agreed.
"It's people being excited," she said. "They can run with it, they get the credit for it -- that's the heart of school-based management."
The plan's only drawback is the amount of time it takes, principals said.
"Everything takes a heck of a lot longer," said Ms. Warner.