As the fourth week of school begins, hundreds of students at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School are caught in an educational limbo, forced to loiter in the halls or attend classes they do not need because of inaccurate course schedules.
The scheduling mix-up at one of the city's best high schools is widespread, affecting most of its upperclassmen. The problems run the gamut, from seniors being scheduled to take classes they have passed, and freshmen being assigned to senior classes, to vocational students being offered courses outside of their area of study.
"I'm disgusted. We want to walk across the stage in June," said Dionne Hopeson yesterday as she perched in a stairwell with a group of friends who complained about the scheduling.
The failure of the district to guarantee accurate schedules has been a chronic problem in Baltimore and prompted school chief Robert Booker to vow last year to fix it this year. All summer long, Booker described how he had asked for weekly updates from his staff on the status of scheduling at each city school. He said he was told every student would have a schedule on the first day.
"I have not been aware of any widespread issues that have to do with schedules this year because I placed such an emphasis on it," Booker said yesterday. "I would be very disappointed if students do not have schedules. I need to talk to the principal and Anne Carusi [the area executive officer] and see what the heck is going on that I am not aware of."
Joyce Jennings, the school's principal, who arrived in the beginning of August, said she was unaware of any scheduling problems until students began arriving for the first day of classes.
Since then, Dunbar staff members have has been trying to rewrite schedules.
Jennings said the problem at Dunbar developed when the school's master scheduler became ill for an extended period. The problem went unrecognized because most of the senior administrative staff at the high school had been transferred to other jobs in the school system.
Jennings also said that the high number of students taking high-level courses as well as vocational training complicates scheduling.
"I take full responsibility because I am the principal," Jennings said.
Students said they arrived to find a variety of scheduling problems. Several seniors said they had been given 10th- or 11th-grade classes they had passed and received credit for. "I had 10th-grade classes. I had taken them," said Ebony Williams, a senior.
Other seniors said ninth-graders have been sitting in class with them.
Tammy Slater, a freshman, was one of them. She was given a schedule with the name of another student on it. "He wasn't a freshman," she said, so she has been sitting in upper-level classes. When she pointed the problem out to a guidance counselor, she said she was told to keep going to the classes until the problems could be ironed out.
Several seniors said they were beginning to get correct schedules yesterday, but Jennings said it will not be until tomorrow before the rest of the school is rescheduled.
But students said they worried they would have a hard time making up four weeks of school. Others were angry that their school had begun to look like those where less motivated students loiter in the hallways.
Senior Quiana Jordan said it was difficult to "keep striving" when, it seemed to her, administrators showed they didn't care enough about students to ensure the schedules were in place.
Jennings said she has instructed teachers to offer students extra help during and after school to make up what they lost in the first month of classes. And she said she has told teachers to go easy on students if they have missed a lot of time.
In June, she promises, every student will leave school with a schedule for the fall. She also has hired an additional guidance counselor and is training more staff to understand how to write schedules for students so that the school is not dependant on one person.
Many city schools have struggled with schedules for those students who had not registered by the beginning of the school year. Baltimore has a large number of students who transfer or register late each year. For instance, Frederick Douglass High School had at least 150 students who wanted to enter after the school year began.
Northern High School was able to overcome many of its past scheduling problems, in part because the new principal, Helena Nobles Jones, did the freshman and sophomore schedules over the summer. Even so, some students said they had schedules that needed adjusting.
Pub Date: 9/21/99