- The Washington Times - Monday, July 2, 2001

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Campus still active even in the summer

A school building at the close of the academic year reverses mood and habit as fast as a double-sided coat changes colors.

Devoid of laughing and chatting students, the cafeteria looked especially forlorn despite warm sunlight streaming through the windows. But it may not be empty all summer. A church group occasionally rents the space by special arrangement with Anne Arundel County officials.

Principal Joyce Smith reported to work a half-hour later than usual, arriving at 7:30 instead of 7 a.m., attired in a loose-fitting trouser suit instead of the dress she wears during school hours. The latter, she noted, "accentuates the difference between teacher and pupil."

During the school year, the busiest part of the day is between 7 and 7:30 a.m., she said. "There is a little more routine now because we can actually plan to work with adults and make it happen."

Two large rectangular tables in the room were piled high with papers needing her attention. Close-of-school announcements still ran in blinking red script over the door to the administration's office, where secretaries sat eating carry-in lunches.

It had been "a banner year," she reflected, because of the increase in the level of student involvement in activities. Academic and attendance levels had improved, as well. As the top administrator on a 12-month schedule, Mrs. Smith was at work planning next year, including such projects as writing student advisories for a leadership training program and updating the student handbook.

"We keep experimenting with different ideas and drawing up different formats," she said. "Each year, there is more to do because we keep creating projects. And every time you do that, you keep doing groundwork for what's ahead."

The next week she would be away attending a professional conference.

"Whenever I get frustrated, I think I could be sailing," she smiled, looking at a painting of a sailboat on a far wall and saying she expected to have at least one week off in July to go sailing with her family on the nearby Chesapeake Bay.

This is the transition period in an educator's year, the time just after final exams, senior graduation, report cards and the scramble to close down a building for the summer hiatus.

"We're sort of transitioning here," said one of the teachers there doing inventory control, turning a noun into an action verb.

Nurse Cathy Kreitzer was tidying up the Health Room for the last time and getting some instruction on a new software program.

In a small courtyard outside Mrs. Smith's office, newly minted graduate Andy Masterson, in shorts, T-shirt and flip-flop shoes, was completing the building of a rock-rimmed pond, a volunteer environmental project he had begun before school ended. The area had been an auxiliary science lab during the school year.

"We found out when we can give real-life experiences for kids, it totally changes their perception," said Mrs. Smith, who has been in her job for seven years.

"It feels great," said Andy, 17, about the change in schedules allowing him free access to nearly every room on the premises. A resident of Annapolis' Admiral Heights, he planned to work as a house painter temporarily and then attend the University of Maryland on scholarship in the fall.

A trio of female students, all members of the school band back for a staff planning meeting, loomed outside the cafeteria in search of a soda machine. The only one still full was in a darkened faculty lounge they entered without knocking, knowing full well that no faculty or staff member would object.

But the sudden quiet that descended over the 80-acre campus — "Home of the Fighting Panthers" — was deceptive.

A steady thump-thump-thump echoed on the ceiling over the auditorium. Workmen from GBA Contracting were replacing the roof in suffocating heat. The building is 22 years old and in need of repairs that cannot be done until summer. The sprawling, two-story, buff-colored brick building at 2700 Riva Road in Annapolis is one of 116 public schools in Anne Arundel County. Normally 1,600 students, grades nine through 12, crowd the halls and grounds.

Secondary summer school, which runs from July 10 through Aug. 9, takes place at three other high schools in the county system, but that doesn't mean Annapolis High becomes a tomb until classes begin again Aug. 28.

Far from it.

Scott Manbeck, a mathematics teacher, dropped by the main office on his way back from what he called "job shadowing." He had been talking to local employers such as the Naval Station and Anne Arundel Medical Center to learn how he could integrate real-life situations into his teaching curriculum and, in essence, find out what jobs are hot and what ones are not.

Meanwhile, upstairs, a two-day grant-supported workshop for teachers called Engaged Learning was taking place in the school's well-appointed media center. A Caroline County specialist in instructional technology was leading a program that had each participant working at a computer. One of their goals was creating individual Web pages that would help teachers keep in better contact with parents. Group members included art teacher June Perry, who last summer had led a group of student volunteers in a project to decorate school bathrooms with original patterns in bright colors.

In the main science classroom, veteran teacher Sheryl Hockenberry was working for the last few hours of her 30-year career. Chores to be completed on her final day included doing an inventory of chemicals on hand and ordering fresh supplies.

"You can't do this when kids are around. They need you," she said.

The line almost was becoming a mantra among the personnel encountered.

"The quiet fosters productivity," said colleague Dan Pogonowski, a 26-year veteran teacher busy organizing matters on a computer screen. "Sometimes we put a CD on, but we're in and out so much."

"We're not really relaxed," confessed Mrs. Hockenberry, who came in at 6:30 a.m. and said she would probably finish up at home later.

Dressed in shorts and an "American Association of Woodturners" T-shirt, she conceded that "it's sort of peaceful without the kids." Shorts, she explained, were off-duty wear only, "good for carrying things around."

Her feelings on the last day were "bittersweet," she said. "But I have other things in my life that are important. I do wood turning.

"And I'm going to get on my boat and go fishing. That's a feeling that would be nice to capture in a bottle."

Mr. Pogonowski's challenge as manager of 12 teachers in the science department would be "getting a replacement for Sheryl and making them comfortable so they don't want to leave."

"If you can keep them three years, you have them for life," he said with a laugh.

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