Board revises school autonomy plan Proposal calls for more parental involvement

October 12, 1990|By Mark Bomster | Mark Bomster,Evening Sun Staff

The Baltimore school board last night approved a revised plan delegating control to local schools, but the changes don't satisfy some critics.

The action followed weeks of public hearings at which critics said the plan was vague and did not go far enough in granting autonomy to individual schools.

The board also had come under pressure from Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke to back school restructuring, though members denied that had anything to do with last night's vote.

"I prefer them to let the public know that we're all on board," Schmoke had said earlier yesterday. "I just want to keep them to keep their eye on the target. I don't want it to slip."

In an apparent attempt to satisfy all parties, the board approved a sweeping policy statement backing the concept of more local school autonomy and amended the original restructuring plan.

The revised plan still calls for 20 pilot schools to be selected by the board and superintendent in the first three-year experiment. The schools would put their plans for local control into effect starting next September.

The rewritten plan also calls for more parental and community involvement, and increases to $15,000 from $10,000 the maximum amount granted to each of the pilot schools.

The policy statement says that the board is committed to giving local schools more control over budget, personnel, curriculum and other areas, and making them more accountable for performance.

Board members were enthusiastic about the new plan, saying the time has come to move ahead with restructuring.

"What we hope we have done is opened the door to a lot of these things," said board President Joseph Lee Smith.

He said local schools would have a great deal of flexibility in structuring their programs under the plan.

But critics say the revised plan is still vague and the board's statements confusing.

Susan P. Leviton, president of Advocates for Children and Youth Inc., called the plan a "false start."

She said that it was unclear how much authority local schools would have over their own budgets under the revised plan and that the amendments did not address the issue of who would be accountable for a school's performance.

"I do not think this will mean more community involvement unless we get some clarification," said Leviton.

JoAnn Robinson, a public school parent who had testified at hearings on the plan, was disappointed that the board gave no more specific definition of "restructuring."

"It all just strikes me as extremely vague still," she said. "I don't really know if they know what they're doing or not."

In other action, the board announced the members of its African/African-American Curriculum Task Force and gave it a budget of $50,055 for the 1990-1991 school year.

The expanded, 30-member panel is due to come up with a revised curriculum that would start in elementary schools next September.

The task force will be chaired by Rebecca Carroll, a former deputy superintendent of city schools. The vice chairwoman will be Lisa Delpit, a Morgan State University education researcher and recipient of a $254,000 MacArthur Foundation "genius" stipend.

Other members include: Frances M. Draper, president of the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper, who will chair the English/foreign language subcommittee; Dr. Gossie H. Hudson, a history professor at Morgan, who will chair the social studies subcommittee; Dr. Robert Bergman, director of the Walters Art Gallery, who will chair the physical education/art subcommittee; and Dr. Allen A. Herman, with the National Institutes of Health, who will chair the math/science subcommittee.

To be hired as expert consultants are Asa Grant Hilliard 3rd, a professor of education at Georgia State University; and Molefi Kete Asante, a professor of African studies at Temple University.

The budget calls for $25,255 in city funds and $24,800 in reallocated staff resources.

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