How to Help the City SchoolsWhat a marvelous time to be...


July 11, 1992

How to Help the City Schools

What a marvelous time to be involved in education in the Baltimore City public schools!

Constructive change is evident at all levels, with the quantity and quality of involvement increasing dramatically in all sectors: public, private and voluntary. The media are keeping the community focused on both strengths and weaknesses in which individuals and groups can become involved.

Particular note must be made of the recent unique and extraordinary series in The Sun which put in print our educational challenges and ways in which some are being met. There can no longer be any doubt or debate about basic issues. The only question now is who will help the administration take on these issues and how.

The Society of Executive Retired Volunteers (SERV) has worked closely with all levels of the city school system and the community for over 18 months to find ways to recruit and retain top-quality teachers in the classroom. We are convinced the schools and the community are loaded with competent individuals and groups who care deeply about the education of our 100,000 public school students.

Honest people will differ on how best to improve education; but the people now involved in this effort are of such high quality and capability they will find a way to work together to achieve their goal.

As Superintendent Walter G. Amprey has said, "The time for pointing the finger of blame has passed." We must all hitch ourselves to the school system wagon and pull together, improving the wagon, yes, but also improving the teamwork; for pulling in different directions will not move the wagon forward.

There are two major efforts to be pursued. Both are under way.

Organization and systemic studies treat the channels through which policies are made and direction given. The Towers Perrin study, the restructuring program, Dr. Amprey's organizational changes, the EAI contract with nine city schools and the Metropolitan Education Coalition's equity funding are a few of many efforts.

These all can be helpful if, as indicated in The Sun editorial on June 26, the best is gleaned from them and implemented effectively.

At a different level are day-to-day practices that are being researched, considered and some of which are being put in place to the direct benefit of children.

The RAISE Mentoring program has changed the performance and the lives of students. The SERV school system study-action plan for recruiting and retaining top-quality teachers has 61 recommendations, many of which are already being activated at virtually no cost.

The Fund for Educational Excellence has made small grants to teachers who have introduced teaching innovations that have resulted in dramatic programs. One of many is the Mock Trial Competition, begun at Lake Clifton-Eastern, that has had a breath-taking effect on the self-image of students.

Success for All, the Johns Hopkins-Dunbar affiliation, the James C. Penney Foundation $10,000 teacher award, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's teacher recognition grants, the Educational Opportunity Program in which college acceptance rose from 9 ** percent to 80 percent, the Barclay-Calvert School experiment: There are legions of efforts that constructively affect daily classroom activity.

Both levels of effort are imperative. Persistence in constructive pursuit is the key. Many successful efforts in the past have been allocated to the "file" with changes in administration. Each constructive activity, cut off in its infancy, is a frustration to those who were instrumental in its creation and implementation. This tends to discourage further initiative.

All programs cannot be pursued; some surely should not. It is our hope the media, including The Sun, will continue to follow the efforts of the school system and the community to strengthen the education of our children, that those efforts not effective be reported as such and those that show promise be reported in a positive fashion. This would encourage accountability and keep education at the top of our priority list, where it belongs.

@Robert O. Bonnell Jr.


The writer is chairman of the education committee of the SERV.

A Sad Experience at Camden Yards

On June 5, our family attended the Orioles game against the Blue Jays.

This was our first trip to the new ballpark and the first big league game for my children, ages 9 and 5. When we told the children that we had tickets they were very excited. They told all their friends at school, and we went out and bought each of them a new baseball to take and get autographed.

We made plans to leave home early and drive the 80 miles to the ballpark so we could eat at the park and watch both teams practice.

At six o'clock my wife and I took the children down to the railing near the Orioles' dugout along the first base line and joined the other 60 or more children, with their parents, hoping for an autograph.

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