City College alumni to raise $1 million Three-year drive is first of its kind

April 26, 1993|By Mark Bomster | Mark Bomster,Staff Writer

Supporters of Baltimore City College are launching a $1 million, three-year fund-raising drive to shore-up the "magnet" high school for the humanities.

Concerned about class sizes, the faculty-student ratio, outdated equipment and the condition of the building, the school's 23-member Board of Visitors is calling on City's alumni and friends to supplement the money City gets from the school system.

"There are some serious deficiencies that need to be addressed in terms of what the city school system can provide," said Amy Mortimer, executive director of the Board of Visitors, a group of trustees for the 154-year-old school, the nation's third-oldest public high school.

The drive, titled "City Forever," will be announced officially Saturday at the 30th reunion of City's Class of 1963. The event will be held at the 1,135-student school at 3220 The Alameda in Northeast Baltimore.

Though about $130,000 was raised for the school in celebration of its 150th anniversary in 1989, Baltimore's fiscal problems have intensified the need for another substantial fund-raiser, said Lee Raskin, chairman of the fund-raising campaign.

"There always have been gifts, but they have not been of an ongoing nature," said Mr. Raskin, of the Class of '63. "Perhaps it's time for a pay back, time for individuals to give something back to this institution."

The drive "will enable administrators to provide the quality education that we've all talked about, at a time when this city is seeing tremendous change," he said.

City College is one of six academically oriented "citywide" high schools, which draw students from throughout Baltimore with specialized programs. Among its noted alumni are Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and writer Leon Uris.

The school's college-preparatory curriculum focuses on philosophy, languages, literature, history and the arts, along with extensive math, science and social studies requirements.

But school administrators note that City does not get the federal money or special education funding of other Baltimore schools, leaving it hard-pressed to keep up with repairs and other improvements and to hire extra staff.

Among the expected uses for money from the drive: renovations to the school's auditorium, advanced placement and nontraditional classes, state of-the-art computers, and books for the school library.

City alumni also are working on a plan to give the school more control over its curriculum, staffing and overall educational program.

The strategy is to make the school part of a network of so-called "enterprise schools," with significant autonomy and a business-like approach, a concept recommended to the city by a high-profile school reform task force last summer.

School Superintendent Walter G. Amprey has embraced the creation of enterprise schools. School administrators have said that the first group of enterprise schools should be in place by September.

"We don't want to remove City College from the school system," said Mr. Raskin, who has discussed the concept with Dr. Amprey. "We want to be part of the school system. We want to revisit what City College has always meant to this community."

The alumni efforts come at a time when top school administrators are assessing the role of citywide high schools.

Dr. Amprey remains committed to those schools. But he and other top officials have said that all high schools in the city eventually should offer more specialized and academically-challenging programs.

"With anything you're doing like this, you need a short-range plan and you need a long-range plan," said Dr. Amprey, who praised the fund-raising effort. "We still have a real strong need for our citywide schools and our citywide programs."

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