Bright faces, possible dreams

Forum Extra

July 01, 1992|By Jerry Baum

THE June 7 editorial introducing your series on city schools called the conditions of the schools scandalous. It said all citizens should be outraged by the lack of resources to provide books and to train teachers, to maintain and refurbish buildings and to contend with the disorders of the streets that impinge on the schools. Shocked by the denial of opportunity to city children, our moral feelings should fuel us as citizens to rise up and press our political leaders to act to correct these conditions.

The six articles were certainly written to shock and arouse. They emphasized the problems and difficulties encountered by students, teachers and parents and portrayed situations that are often bleak.

The articles have had a constructive effect. They have aroused the generosity of citizens, who are calling schools with offers of books and dollars and help. Further, they may reinvigorate those of use who have worked for many years to improve the lives of Baltimore's children but who may have lapsed into making unhealthy compromises in the face of declining resources and resistance to change.

Yet, there is more to this story than we read. I am the director of the Fund for Educational Excellence, a non-profit foundation that acts as an agent of change in city schools. My job exposes me to many schools, teachers, and parents. I know magnificent teachers, strong principals and decent buildings in which learning takes place. These schools provide the order, security and love children need in stark contrast to the streets from which so many come. Despite the horrendous problems, I see the strengths on which we can build.

Perhaps your newspaper should consider a sequel, "Bright Faces, Possible Dreams," which would be about the positive programs that succeed against the odds.

This series would describe elementary schools such as Pimlico, George Street and Robert Coleman, and high schools such as Walbrook and Lake Clifton/Eastern. It would look at Barclay Elementary's partnership with the Calvert School; the Garrett Heights developmental curriculum; the Success for All program; the active involvement of parents in such elementary schools as Dr. Bernard Harris Sr., Lexington Terrace and Elmer A. Henderson; Calverton's and West Baltimore's participation in the Edna McConnell Clark five-city effort to reform middle schools; and Canton's participation in the Maryland School Improvement Program. It would look at the steps toward change being taken by new Superintendent Walter Amprey and the new Board of School Commissioners.

The series also might cover creative teaching approaches in the several hundred classrooms supported by grants from the Fund for Educational Excellence. It would describe the exciting role filled by exemplary teachers teaching other teachers. It would discover the change in environment created by caring teachers who reach out to involve parents and win their participation in the development of their children.

"Bright Faces, Possible Dreams" could alter many citizens' stereotype of our schools as places that are run-down and disorderly and in which little learning takes place. Such a series could demonstrate that a sound foundation exists and warrants an additional investment of effort and dollars.

People need not only to be morally outraged at what The Evening Sun found but also to be given the hope that comes from knowing that bright-eyed, curious, wonderful children in Baltimore experience as much success every day as they do failure.

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