Baltimore schools chief discloses goals for 'major' reorganization

October 03, 1991|By Gelareh Asayesh

Baltimore's new school superintendent is moving quickly to take charge of the school system, mapping plans for improved student performance and for a reorganization that by next summer will have revamped the school bureaucracy.

Walter G. Amprey, who took charge of the city schools Aug. 1, promised a "major" reorganization of the system, to be completed by June 30.

"I'm going to do whatever's necessary," he said. "It could mean that people are laid off. We might move people around. Some people could retire. . . . We're going to make the school system user-friendly, that's for sure."

Meanwhile, copies of the superintendent's proposed goals for theschool system were mailed yesterday to community, business and parent groups and education advocates. Included was a form for providing comment on the four goals and 24 sub-goals by Oct. 31.

Last Saturday, at a private meeting that was opened to the public at the request of The Sun, the school board declined to disclose Dr. Amprey's goals. School board President Joseph L. Smith said the material would be released within a few weeks. Board member Meldon S. Hollis Jr. said that if the document was released Saturday, public opinion and politics would hamper free discussion by the board.

But the board later changed its mind and Dr. Amprey released the material yesterday.

"People need to understand and buy into what the goals are, what themission is and what the strategies are," said Dr. Amprey, who conferred with two previous superintendents, Alice Pinderhughes and John L. Crew Sr., before developing his plan.

School officials, from principals on up, were asked last week to submit their ideas and suggestions on the goals -- as well as detailed proposals on how to achieve them. The proposals must have deadlines and specific achievement targets.

A sample sent to school employees included such objectives as increasing student achievement on standardized tests by seven points by June 1993 for the goal of improving children's readiness to learn through early childhood education programs.

The emphasis on quantifiable results is a key part of the plan. Dr. Amprey last month obtained board approval for an Office of Educational Accountability, which will be charged with measuring progress in the school system and with coming up with better ways to evaluate student performance.

Another new priority will be evaluating existing programs to see if they work. Critics of the 108,000-student school system have long complained that programs are never evaluated, and the system is not held accountable for producing results.

Since becoming superintendent, Dr. Amprey has promised changes without adding his voice to the chorus of critics of the school system. Instead, he has emphasized that there are "good things" to build on in Baltimore's 179 schools.

Dr. Amprey said yesterday that the skills and ability to improve the school system are already present.

"It's just a matter of managing it and moving it ahead," he said.

The four goals reflect how Dr. Amprey and his deputies envision managing the school system. They call for measurable increases in student achievement, systemwide accountability, making the most of school employees through careful placement and training and "shared responsibility" with business, parents and others.

The obvious catch is money. The city is already facing cuts in programs it wishes to emphasize, such as pre-kindergarten. Dr. Amprey has said that the school system needs to be creative with its money.

Nevertheless, a sub-goal is devoted to that topic: "Increase fiscal resources." Coming up with ways of doing so will be one of the big challenges for the new regime.

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