Parting shots

August 02, 1991

At his final press conference Wednesday, an embittered Baltimore city schools Superintendent Richard C. Hunter decamped from his palatial North Avenue headquarters with a parting blast at Mayor Kurt Schmoke, who brought him here three years ago amid high hopes that he would be able to transform Baltimore's troubled school system into something the city could be proud of. With remarkably bad grace, Hunter tried to pass off his own failure to fulfill those hopes as Schmoke's fault.

But the record simply doesn't support that specious claim.

Was it Schmoke's fault, for example, when Hunter announced, soon after he arrived, that the schools faced a severe "teacher shortage" -- a shortage that later turned out to be nonexistent when it was discovered that stacks of teacher applications had been piling up in the school offices unread?

Or was it the mayor's fault when Hunter, citing budget constraints, complained of a crippling shortage of textbooks -- when in fact the books were stacked up in the city's warehouses all along as a consequence of the school bureaucracy's inability to keep track of its own property?

And was it Schmoke's fault that Hunter turned down a promising curriculum reform at the Barclay School, even though the school's principal, parents and teachers had worked more than a year to devise a program that was a model example of the kind of "school-based management" Hunter had repeatedly assured the mayor he supported?

Hunter's remarks Wednesday only serve to confirm the judgment that he is a man unable or unwilling to take responsibility for his own actions. He had three years to make his case; having failed to do so, he resorted to cheaps shots at the mayor who hired him. Hunter's performance revealed a bad grace that ill becomes an educator or a public official.

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