County's 'best' school found lacking in report


Fallston High, one of Harford's newer and highest-regarded schools, is plagued by low morale among teachers, a woeful lack of equipment such as copy machines and computers, and an erratic heating and air-conditioning system, a national organization's study concludes.

The study, prepared by the Middle States Association, a Philadelphia-based evaluation and accrediting organization, is based on association officials' three-day visit in November.

Harford's school system declined to release the study or comment on it, saying it contained "confidential" information. But The Sun obtained portions of the report last week from the Harford County Education Association, the teachers union.

Jean R. Thomas, the union's president, said she released parts of the report to call attention to problems at Fallston and added that other schools confront much more pressing concerns daily.

"Fallston High is supposed to be the county's 'country club' school, and look at its problems," she said. "Imagine what they must be in the county's older schools where there is a less-affluent community and PTA to buy the schools equipment."

Mrs. Thomas said she hoped the school system and county government would spend more money on all schools after reviewing the report.

The Middle States Association reviews each of its member schools every 10 years, and in the latest report, Fallston was the only high school studied.

The report concluded that Fallston suffered from a shortage of money to buy equipment, and flaws including a heating and air-conditioning system that sometimes leaves classrooms sizzling one day and chilly the next.

"The visiting committee senses a great deal of staff frustration and tension. . . . So many kinds of equipment and technology are not adequately available in this educational setting," the report said.

The association also recommended that Fallston hire more teachers and buy more equipment, everything from a computerized file system to keep track of students to more safety equipment to protect students in science labs.

The lack of equipment and supplies frustrates Fallston High teachers, said one of them, John Holzworth.

"I have spent a hell of a lot of my own money to educate this county's children," he said.

Mr. Holzworth, who teaches U.S. history, said he has brought in his own computer and VCR because of the school's shortage.

He said he purchased a scanner for his home computer to make high-resolution copies of reports and photos because the school's "pathetic" copy machines are frequently broken. Mr. Holzworth said the scanner lets him copy documents into the computer without typing them and that he can then use a laser printer to make multiple clear copies.

"I do this because I want my students to have the best," he said.

Robert B. Pfau, Fallston principal, said the report contained no surprises because before a school is evaluated by Middle States, the staff and administration complete an internal study.

"It was reassuring to us that an objective committee would find the same things as our self-study," he said.

Mr. Pfau said the school's PTA had looked at the report and agreed to raise money to cover some of the most obvious needs, including additional computers and a high-speed copier to replace the school's old copy machines.

The school, which shares some of its space with Fallston Middle, has 1,682 students. About 960 of those students are high school students, and that number will grow to 1,120 next year, Mr. Pfau said.

Fallston Middle will open in a new building next to the high school in the fall.

Fallston High, which opened in 1977, has a capacity of 1,700 students.

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