Amid ailing city schools, outstanding students are saluted for excellence

November 17, 1991|By Suzanne Wooton

You may have already heard: Baltimore city schools flopped in 12 of 13 categories on the state's annual "report card." They're shutting down for a week because of the budget crunch. And the city's best-known principal is calling it quits, saying the schools can't be fixed.

What you may not have heard, though, is that Katia Butler had perfect attendance for six years at Collington Elementary School in East Baltimore and was honored not only for her grades but for dramatic reading as well.

That first-graders at Gilmor Elementary School write their own stories on one of the school's few computers.

And Tameeka Williams, a mere third-grader at Gilmor Elementary School, read 83 books during her summer vacation.

You also may not know that Monet inspires the young artists at Mount Washington Elementary. Or that Tanika Chapman, a senior at Dunbar High School, works at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center's radiology department two hours a day as part of her health practice studies.

You wouldn't know, of course, unless you attended yesterday's seventh annual All School Salute, which highlighted the good in Baltimore's much-maligned public schools.

At the cavernous Festival Hall downtown, 150 of the city's 175 schools sponsored booths, featuring art and writing projects, and science exhibits. Bell choirs, drum and bugle corps, choral groups, cheerleaders, bands and jazz and dance ensembles also performed.

"This gives people the opportunity to spotlight the positive things in the schools," said Barbara Lee, principal at Cross Country Elementary School. "This is what we need to get out to the public."

Most of those attending the event, however, were parents and students in the city's public schools. Organizers conceded that the upbeat message failed to reach city residents who send their children to parochial and private schools, or the politicians in Annapolis who control the purse strings.

"There's a lot of feeling in Annapolis that investing money in the city schools is a bad investment. But that's a bum rap," said Jerry Baum, executive director of the non-profit Fund for Educational Excellence, which sponsored the four-hour event where 8,500 people were expected.

With a recent flurry of bad news about city schools, the salute may have been just the pep rally students, teachers and parents needed.

"There's still hope for the school system," said Ms. Chapman, the Dunbar senior who is also one of two student commissioners on the Baltimore city school board.

"You can't keep telling kids it's hopeless," she said. "It's like telling them they're stupid. Pretty soon they'll start believing it."

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