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Hereford parents petition school board about schedule change

Hereford High School parents aren't giving up on their quest to keep their school's current schedule, and they filed a legal petition Monday with the Baltimore County school board.

The parents, who have mounted months of protests, say Superintendent Dallas Dance's decision to standardize schedules in the county was arbitrary and based on faulty data. They want it overturned.

"We expect a change, and we are not backing down," said Adam Spence, an attorney and parent of a Hereford High student, who is working pro bono and filed the legal documents.

The petition says that if the board is unwilling to overturn the superintendent's decision then it should allow Hereford to keep its schedule for the next three years to study its merits. Hereford students take four classes each semester for a total of eight classes a year. Under the new plan, students would take eight classes a semester under one of three schedules.

School board President Lawrence Schmidt said he cannot comment because he has not read the documents. Dance could not be reached for comment.

Dance made small adjustments to his plan in February, allowing juniors and seniors at Hereford and two other high schools to keep their current schedule under some limited circumstances.

Hereford parents and students, who live in the northern, rural portion of the county, say students have been successfully using the schedule for the past 22 years. Hereford is one of the highest-achieving high schools in the county.

Dance said when he announced the new schedule that he wanted to make the change so that students transferring between schools would not lose credits. But the petition says Hereford has only a 1 percent transfer rate. In addition, the petition says, Dance made the decision last fall without including parents, teachers and students in the process.

"Dr. Dance's attempts to polish his decision as one that benefits the school system is simply reliance on glossy, unsupported catch-phrases," the petition reads.

Spence said the organization will take its case to the state school board and the county courts if it does not get satisfaction from the school board.

Hereford High School's mascot is the bull. "If you mess with the bulls, you are going to get the horns," Spence said.

The Hereford parents aren't the only ones upset by the change.

The majority of the Baltimore County Council supports the Hereford parents' position, said Councilman Todd Huff. Three Maryland senators and six delegates who represent the area have written a letter to Dance asking him to change his mind about the school.

"It doesn't need to be fixed. It was working well," said Del. Susan Aumann "Why go and change everything when that is not what this community wants?"

The teachers union and the principals union have come out against the scheduling change in comments they have made before the school board in the past several months.

Hereford Works LLC, the parents group formed to fight the change, has packed school board meetings, and on April 7, 250 parents and legislators went to a fundraiser at the local firehouse.

Most of the county's highest-performing schools are on a seven-period day and are moving to a schedule with four periods a day, alternating each day. The schedule changes have not been popular at other schools, but students and parents elsewhere have not mounted the same intense protest.

"We are asking him to give us a justification for the change. We believe the block schedule is working," said Huff, adding that he believes principals should have some say in creating a schedule that fits the needs of the student body.

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