In the Baltimore City school system, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The system's hierarchy, first headquartered on 25th Street, then on North Avenue, has been reorganized at least 11 times since the late Roland N. Patterson "decentralized" the system in 1973 -- breaking it into nine regions. Each of Dr. Patterson's three successors had a reorganization plan, and Dr. Patterson's regions gradually disappeared as the system became "recentralized."
But nothing has changed in the way power flows in city schools. It flows from the top down -- as it has done so for decades. Orders move from the superintendent and his top staff, through the bureaucracy to the principals and teachers. In short, those who are most directly engaged in education -- the teachers and students -- are farthest from where decisions are made.
Walter G. Amprey, the new superintendent, is no exception in having his own reorganization plan. His flow-chart looks like Dr. Patterson's, only it is much less elaborate: six areas, not nine regions; two or three professionals and a secretary in each office, not 30 to 35 staff members. But Dr. Amprey's rationale is the same as Dr. Patterson's: to move decision-making closer to its "lowest practical point" -- to the schools.