Frustrated parents have joined forces to demand more influence in charting the future of the Baltimore school system, including the selection of a new superintendent.
In a sharp statement to the city school board last night, Anthony V. Stewart, president of the Council of PTAs, complained that parents must "constantly angle for attention and opportunities to participate in decisions that affect their children."
Stewart told of "mistrust and apathy on the part of parents, low morale on the part of the school administration" and "a revolving door to the superintendent's office."
He challenged board members to appear at an open forum Wednesday on the school system. The forum is being sponsored by a coalition of parent advisory groups that includes Stewart's organization.
But board members did not respond publicly last night to Stewart's criticisms, which came during a section of the meeting set aside specifically to hear comments from the public.
Stewart, acting as spokesman for the coalition, lashed out at a time when the board has been holding lengthy, closed sessions to discuss candidates to replace school Superintendent Richard C. Hunter, whose term expires at the end of July.
Eight candidates remain on the list of potential finalists, board members say, and that list will be narrowed even further. Different members give informal target dates ranging from May 1 to May 15 for selection of a final candidate.
But so far, Stewart complained, "not one parent group has been consulted. Not one parent organization is participating in the process."
Galvanized by concern about the superintendent situation, the coalition is demanding to know:
* What plan the school board has to include parents in selection of the new superintendent, and whether parents will be allowed to interview finalists for the job.
* What will become of programs initiated during the tenure of the current school chief, who is leaving after policy disagreements with Mayor Kurt Schmoke.
* Whether the new superintendent will be free from mayoral meddling, "or will the superintendent be expected to be a figurehead for the mayor?"
Despite talk of reforms within the education bureaucracy, "we're not seeing anything happen at the school level," said Stewart after the meeting. "We're seeing a ball of confusion."
Parents are especially concerned about the lack of involvement in the selection process for the new superintendent, said Stewart. He dismissed what he called a poorly publicized January hearing on the subject that drew just two speakers.
"The school system is going on, assuming that parents aren't ever going to come together," said Stewart. But he added that the search for a superintendent has focused attention on other issues involving the future of the system.
In other business last night, the board announced a public hearing later this month to unveil the preliminary report of a task force working on ways to integrate African and African-American material into the current school curriculum.
The hearing will take place at 6:30 p.m. April 22 at school headquarters, 200 E. North Ave. Copies of the report will be available at school headquarters next Wednesday.
The board also approved the involvement of 20 city schools in a study on ways to manage asthma. The project is sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.