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River Hill High student shadows the governor in Annapolis for a day


What is it like to be the chief executive of Maryland on any given day?

Here's a sample from the "to-do" list: meet with staffers; hold two news conferences on contentious issues up for debate in the General Assembly; end the workday visiting the set of a hit HBO television series.

Sagar Gupta, 18, a senior at River Hill High School, got to see a bit of that busy schedule this month as he spent a day shadowing Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. - and Gupta loved every minute of it.

On Feb. 2, students shadowed public officials as part of the state's career and technology education program. Gupta was nominated by his adviser for the state chapter of the Future Business Leaders of America to shadow Ehrlich. Gupta is president of the group.

"I felt that it was truly an honor," said Gupta, of Dayton. "I was the only student in the entire state to receive this."

Gupta arrived at the governor's mansion at 9 a.m. He met with Ehrlich a few minutes later, and they talked about Gupta's plans.

"He asked me about my college aspirations," said Gupta who told the governor that he had applied to New York University and University of Virginia. "He liked both schools greatly."

Gupta then followed Ehrlich to a meeting with his staff members as they prepared statements for news conferences on the gay marriage issue and on legislation about sex offenders.

After the news conferences, Gupta ate lunch with Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, followed by a tour of the mansion.

"The rooms were colorful and had great artwork," Gupta said. "It was a pretty big house. It seems a lot bigger on the inside as opposed to looking at it from the outside."

The day ended with Ehrlich heading to Baltimore to visit the set of The Wire, a critically acclaimed police drama on HBO, although Gupta couldn't go to the set because he didn't have security clearance.

"He was quite personable," Gupta said of the governor. "He was very approachable. You could tell he really cared about the people of Maryland."

Despite his taste of public life, don't expect to see Gupta running for a political office.

"I think law and politics are very interesting fields," he said. "But I would rather be an observer than a participant."

No charter school

Noting the lack of a strong instructional approach and qualified management, the Howard County Board of Education voted, 5-0, Thursday to reject an application for charter school in Columbia - the third time that the board has turned down a proposal from this group.

"We have a responsibility for all children, including the children of that school," said Diane Mikulus, the board's vice chairman. "I needed more assurance."

The vote followed this month's recommendation by a committee of more than 40 system employees urging the school board to reject an application for the Columbia Public Charter School for the 2006-2007 school year.

Mikulis said board members felt comfortable siding with the committee's recommendation.

"I commend the staff for a thorough review," Mikulis said. "Because of that, I find the recommendations were very credible."

The group's leadership has said it will not pursue another application.

AYP at all schools

Every school in Howard County now meets requirements for yearly academic growth, making the system one of four statewide to achieve the feat, the state announced recently.

Adequate yearly progress - or AYP - is a yardstick under the federal No Child Left Behind Act and is determined by several factors, including standardized tests scores. Among other things, the measure is used to determine whether parents can transfer their children to higher-performing schools, and it can affect federal funding.

Originally, five schools in the system - Hammond High, Phelps Luck Elementary, Cradlerock School, Patuxent Valley Middle and Wilde Lake Middle - did not make AYP, but the system appealed and was eventually granted AYP for each school.

"I think it is extraordinary and a testament to the hard work our teachers and people in the system put in," said Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin. But he said that he does not want the system to rest on its laurels.

Cousin said some students - including some ethnic minorities - are not at the level that he would like. The county has set a goal of having 70 percent of each student group perform at a proficient level or above on the Maryland State Assessment tests.

"We want to go from good to great," he said. "Just because we make AYP we don't stop. AYP is not a ceiling it is a floor."

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