The principal of Wilde Lake High School wants the school board to speed up school redistricting, shifting high school boundary lines in the fall instead of in September 1994.
To Principal Bonnie Daniel and her staff, "it matters because we would like our numbers to go up next year," she said at a community meeting last week. She said her school has difficulty offering a variety of courses because its student body is relatively small.
Wilde Lake is about 80 students short of its 910-student capacity and is projected to remain so for the next 10 years if no changes are made. A school system proposal to boost Wilde Lake enrollment -- and relieve Centennial High overcrowding -- by redistricting some Centennial students in 1994 has been met with protests from many Centennial parents.
But Ms. Daniel is enthusiastic about the redistricting plan. "We're finding it difficult for us to do what we have to do at our school, and we've been hit by budget cuts," she said.
Ms. Daniel and Daniel Jett, director of high schools, presented an overview of Wilde Lake's history to school board members last week. They also outlined the school's advisory periods, class scheduling and no-fail grading system.
Defending the school against critics who dislike the no-fail grading system, Ms. Daniel said Wilde Lake is a school "where students are not afraid to try . . . where there's no need to accept failure because there's plenty of opportunities to get it right. If you accept that all students can learn, if you accept that students learn at different rates . . . you simply don't allow students to fail."
School board member Susan Cook praised Wilde Lake's philosophy, saying she felt her son, now a college junior, would have learned more in high school had he gone to Wilde Lake. "I felt then as I feel now [that his teachers were giving him] a grade to pass him on," she said.
School board Chairman Dana Hanna asked Ms. Daniel to explain why standardized test scores at Wilde Lake were the lowest of the county's eight high schools.
Ms. Daniel said she uses test scores as markers and as one of many indications of student achievement. "Test scores are important in terms of letting you know where your kids are and how long I have to go," she said.
"We're doing very well at where we have to get them at the end. Performance on standardized tests is one of those things that happen along the way."
Many Wilde Lake parents, including as PTSA President Jan Morrison, agree. "If test scores are the only criteria, what will that say to the teacher but to teach to the test?" she said.
The redistricting proposal has caused concern among many Centennial parents, some of whom are checking statistics to determine whether Wilde Lake would offer equitable education and experiences for their children.
Some Centennial parents who came to hear the Thursday night presentation remained skeptical afterward. One parent, who declined to give his name, asked why, if Wilde Lake's program works so well, other schools have not adopted it.
"Wilde Lake's program was intended to be unique from the beginning," said Superintendent Michael E. Hickey. "Unless you have a staff that buys into Wilde Lake's kind of program, the program's not going to be successful."
"I don't truly agree with the philosophy of Wilde Lake," said Marianne Hollerbach, president of Longfellow Elementary School's PTA. "I don't agree with a no-fail system. I don't think it's reality-based in this world. When someone can do the work as long as they please, it doesn't correlate with what happens in the business world.
"The school has been allowed to remain under-enrolled" six or seven years," she said. "Maybe what the school system should have done was give the school positive publicity all along. I don't think it's Bonnie Daniel's job to try to sell her school."
Centennial parent Rosemary Dempsey said she sympathizes with Wilde Lake students and parents, given the scrutiny the school has undergone.
"I feel sorry for the horrible time that the students in Wilde Lake have gone through," she said, adding that school officials should have expressed their support earlier. "They've been very silent, and I think it was wrong. It was a gross disservice to Wilde Lake."