Baltimore's fired school chief, Richard C. Hunter, today accused Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke of making him the scapegoat for failures of the city school system.
"If Hunter failed, while conferring with the mayor on every major issue . . . then so did Mr. Schmoke," said Hunter in a blistering statement that he read on the last day of his three-year term.
Hunter said Schmoke and former school board President Meldon S. Hollis Jr. "enticed" him into the job in 1988, only to have Schmoke drop him last December, despite private assurances from the mayor that he would be offered a new three-year contract.
Hunter was especially bitter about Schmoke's public criticism of his school chief in December, which Hunter says damaged his professional career.
Schmoke's statements were "an attempt to set me up as a scapegoat to take the blame for this administration's failures to live up to the mayor's campaign promises to the voters of Baltimore," said Hunter.
Though some improvements have taken place, Hunter said, the mayor has been slammed for "unrealistic and politically risky" promises of quick, dramatic reforms.
Hunter said he knew that it would take more "than one three-year contract" for the superintendent to achieve "an educational renaissance in Baltimore."
And in his view, the mayor's decision to fire him was a betrayal of trust, done for political reasons.
"Now, we can better understand why the mayor used the technique of criticizing his superintendent of public instruction during the 1989-90 school year," said Hunter. "He was preparing for today," apparently referring to the superintendent's departure.
"It is done," said Hunter, his voice quavering at times as he read his parting blast at the administration. "The educational sacrifice has been made. It is done."
Hunter's farewell remarks cap a tumultuous three-year term marked by clashes over the pace and philosophy of educational reform.
His family will remain in Baltimore for at least a year, while his daughter finishes high school and his wife completes a degree at the College of Notre Dame.
As of tomorrow, he will be succeeded by Walter G. Amprey, a Baltimore County assistant superintendent picked after a six-month search by the city school board.
"I hope that the community will provide and insist on greater support for Dr. Amprey," said Hunter. "He will need it. I wish him well."
Hunter leaves the job as he began it -- on the heels of controversy.
His very hiring came under fire in 1988, when Schmoke himself picked Hunter for the $125,000-a-year job over the objections of a majority of school board members.
Despite that inauspicious start, Hunter said, "I uprooted my wife and daughter from their comfortable surroundings in North Carolina . . . putting our confidence and trust in Mayor Schmoke and President Hollis."
Despite funding problems, Hunter said, the "Schmoke-Hunter administration" started a number of initiatives that are beginning to pay off.