City school chief Hunter graded as 'satisfactory'

December 07, 1990|By Will Englund

Richard C. Hunter, who tenaciously held on to his job as Baltimore school chief in the face of a steady stream of mayoral fault-finding over the past school year, received a "satisfactory" grade from the city school board last night.

Dr. Hunter himself said last January that he deserved an A for his efforts, but the school board, whose members are appointed by the mayor, gave him its lowest "passing" mark, on a scale that ranged from unsatisfactory to excellent.

Several board members declared immediately after last night's meeting that the evaluation, based solely on Dr. Hunter's job performance over the 1989-1990 school year, was in no way a signal as to whether they planned to keep him on as superintendent when his three-year contract expires next summer.

For his part, Dr. Hunter said he would like to stay on if the board asks him. He has been a consistent speaker at churches and at community meetings, and many who have heard him believe he's trying to drum up support for another term as superintendent.

"Well, I have consistently been out in the community," he said last night. "I'm just trying to do the job that takes me out all through this community."

Some people, he added, have approached him to tell him they want him to stay on, "and I'm really pleased that there are people who are in support of this administration."

The board's evaluation did not consider progress in student achievement or any area that could be a measure of actual learning. Instead, the board said it focused on budget management, organizational structure, parent and community involvement and the introduction of technology in the system.

The evaluation covers a school year that saw controversies over the distribution of textbooks, the lack of planning, the neglect of field trips, and the unannounced diversion of textbook funds to pay for teachers' salaries.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke made his displeasure with Dr. Hunter abundantly clear, and by spring had forced him to hire a deputy to actually run the system.

The most important project involving the introduction of technology was the placement of "Writing to Read" computer labs in elementary schools -- a project that was launched by Mayor Schmoke.

"Overall, the board felt that progress has been made in the areas identified," the evaluation report said. "The day-to-day management of the system needed to be strengthened."

Without mentioning the mayor, the board noted approvingly the hiring of the deputy superintendent, J. Edward Andrews -- who has said that in June 1991 he will return to his post at the University of Maryland.

Although he fell short of a good or excellent rating, Dr. Hunter said, "I'm glad to see that the board acknowledged that some progress has been made."

Stelios Spiliadis, the board member who was in charge of the evaluation, defended its emphasis on organizational matters, rather than examining whether progress was being made in improving classroom education.

"The question is, how long does it take" to raise students' achievement, said Mr. Spiliadis. "You have to allow a certain amount of time."

Moments before the board presented its evaluation of Dr. Hunter, two of his aides warned that a just-completed federal audit of the city's handling of the Chapter One program -- a $40 million effort aimed at disadvantaged children -- had uncovered problems in its administration. The auditors, who have not yet written their report, praised the city's encouragement of parent involvement but criticized the management of the program and said the city's data on student progress were so faulty as to be unreliable, according to Mary R. Nicholsonne, who directs the program for the city and who met with the auditors Wednesday.

And just after the evaluation was presented, board members heard Hilton Bostick -- the citizen who pushed the city into considering an African-based curriculum -- declare that the schools were in such bad shape that Baltimore needed a voucher program that would allow children to flee the system for private school.

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