BTU faults Hunter on classroom gains

December 11, 1990|By Kathy Lally

The president of the powerful Baltimore Teachers Union said yesterday that there has been no improvement in Baltimore classrooms since Richard C. Hunter arrived as superintendent 2 1/2 years ago and that the union's board would soon vote on whether he should be rehired.

"We spent a great deal of money for a new superintendent," said Irene Dandridge, the BTU president. "There is a great deal of concern in the schools that in the last three years, nothing has changed at the classroom level."

Dr. Hunter was hired for the $125,000-a-year job as superintendent at the urging of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who had made improving the city school system one of the foundations of his campaign for mayor. The BTU campaigned energetically for the mayor.

Dr. Hunter's contract expires July 31, and last week the school board gave him a "satisfactory" evaluation on a scale that included unsatisfactory, good and excellent. After the evaluation, Mr. Schmoke said he would ask the board to make a decision on Dr. Hunter's contract within 60 days.

"Our major concern is that nothing has been done in the three years to increase achievement," Mrs. Dandridge said. "We've cut down on disciplinary removals by telling principals not to DR anyone [remove a student from school for disciplinary reasons].

"We improved attendance by cutting out the staggered entrance at the beginning of the school year. I applaud that. But I am very, very concerned that our children see no difference in the classroom.

"We had very high hopes three years ago. But I am not as enthusiastic about Dr. Hunter's performance as some people are."

The one real initiative for change during Dr. Hunter's tenure, Mrs. Dandridge said, has come from teachers. The BTU asked for a "restructuring" plan that would give individual schools more authority to run their own affairs. Mayor Schmoke has been an enthusiastic backer of it as a way to improve schools.

But restructuring is several months behind schedule. "It didn't get support from the school system," Mrs. Dandridge said.

Though some community groups have argued that Dr. Hunter should be retained because a change in superintendents would lead to instability, Mrs. Dandridge disagreed.

"If we get a superintendent who is willing to work with anybody, I think we would be far better off," the union leader said. "I don't think we would be worse off by getting a new superintendent."

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