It was Fine-Toothed Comb Day. From cellar to attic, a group of reviewers was giving Bountiful High School the once-over - and not lightly. Even seldom-visited crawl spaces would not be immune from the inquisitive noses of reviewers.
Principal Rulon Homer, a youngish educational dynamo who would not usually be described as tense, was tense. At stake was the accreditation of his school - a 10-year event that marks high schools as up-to-snuff in the academic world.But if he was tense, he wasn't, in the final analysis, really worried. Bountiful High has a long-standing reputation for academic excellence. Located in a stable neighborhood of middle to upper-class suburbanites, Bountiful High School consistently shows well in test scores, individual student honors and community involvement.
At 6 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, Homer treated the group of nearly 40 reviewers to breakfast before they embarked on their assessment of every one of Bountiful's departments. Those assigned to the team were specialists in their areas from the State Office of Education or from districts other than Davis. They were invited by the state office to participate in the review, which is required of schools accredited by the Northwest Association of Schools.
With breakfast behind them, the reviewers scattered, to spend the next two days in detailed conversation with teachers, administrators, students and staff.
In the science department, a team headed by LaMar Anderson of Logan High School watched as Bountiful teacher Dwight Brown put an advanced placement class through a genetics exercise.
Brown then moved to another class and an animated discussion of whether a certain individual could have committed a sex crime, based on enzyme DNA evidence.
That kind of lively, interactive instruction, where students are encouraged to come to their own conclusions "is impressive," said Cary Hylton, a Springville High School teacher who was observing.
Verl Allred, Box Elder District, was taking in a Spanish class and preparing to make some strong recommendations regarding Bountiful's foreign language program. Besides suggesting addition of more languages to the menu, he said that "Thirty-six kids in this kind of class are simply too many. In foreign language classes, you have to work closely with individual students. It's impossible with this many."
Allred touched on another fact of life at Bountiful - oversize classes, which were noted by reviewers in several programs. Large classes are endemic in Utah, and schools lack the financial resources to significantly reduce them, Homer noted. He had, again, anticipated criticism in this area.
Mike Parker's marketing class, where students were learning about free enterprise through a "DECA dollars" in-class selling system, found favor in the eyes of Dale Stephens, state office specialist in marketing education. After observing for two days, he advised an increase in computer activity for the program and a better "marketing of marketing" to get more Bountiful High students involved in distributive education courses.
Bountiful's widely noted art programs also received more commendations than recommendations. Darrel Smith, a Jordan District visitor, found the "kids on task and understanding the concepts they're discussing.
For Homer, there was a Thursday afternoon session of several hours' duration with the administration/staff/
student activities and facilities team for a point-by-point discussion of their findings. The reviewers included Carlisle, Kearns High Principal Richard Haacke; Granger High Vice Principal Luciano Martinez; and Marvin Johnson of the state office.
After the two days of intensive review and the compilation of the reviewers' comments, Homer found that the great majority of the recommendations are directly in line with the school's own in-house examination, which preceded the state review.
Homer was encouraged to learn that some of the reviewers had taken elements of the Bountiful school's program back to their own schools.
Imitation, he acknowledged, is the sincerest form of flattery. And he was nicely relaxed as he said it.