Corporate volunteers help troubled schools

January 06, 1993|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,Staff Writer

Many of Maryland's largest corporations have volunteere employees to serve as management consultants at some of the state's most academically troubled schools.

Teams of volunteers are organizing to conduct needs assessments, assist with strategic planning and help to coordinate health and social services at schools in Baltimore and in Queen Anne's and Prince George's counties. The program will eventually include 35 schools, said June E. Streckfus, executive director of the Maryland Business Roundtable.

The Roundtable is a fledgling group of the state's 57 largest companies. It was formed last year to help Maryland improve its education system.

News of the management consulting program, known as the Maryland Partnership, came during the Roundtable's second annual meeting yesterday at the Mayfield Woods Middle School in Elkridge in Howard County.

"I've never seen a group like this," said Gov. William Donald Schaefer as he addressed a gathering of nearly 50 executives. "You can make the difference."

Companies providing consultants include Bell Atlantic Network Services Inc., Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and the Maryland Division of Washington Gas. Participating Baltimore schools include the Carter Godwin Woodson Elementary School and the Maree G. Farring Elementary School.

Members of the Roundtable spent last year visiting schools around the state and even teaching classes to get a feel for students' needs. At yesterday's meeting, they shared experiences and offered observations.

Marge Magner, an executive vice president with Primerica Corp., talked about visiting a school where 80 percent of the students came from single-parent households. She said children arrived hungry and late because their parents failed to wake them in time to obtain a free breakfast at school.

Other executives spoke of well-managed schools with strong senses of pride and broad curricula. J. E. Butch Woodward of Merrill Lynch was impressed by one Baltimore school that offers eight languages.

"They have Russian classes," he said, half-astonished.

The consulting partnership is one of several initiatives the Roundtable plans for this year. The organization also plans to lobby for more school accountability; expanded classes for disadvantaged 4-year-olds; and coordination of educational, health and social services for children.

While Governor Schaefer praised the business leaders, he warned them that serious change would require long-term commitment.

"Where were you for the last 10 years?" he asked.

The governor also asked them to help him answer tough questions.

On the issue of working with parents to motivate children, he asked, "How are you going to inspire parents to do something when they don't have jobs?"

Maryland's education system ranks in the top third of the nation's systems, but it suffers from many of the same problems endemic to school systems around the country, said Nancy S. Grasmick, state superintendent of schools. Fewer resources in poorer neighborhoods make it much harder to educate children equally, she said.

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