Magnet school plan is killed by Hayden Sudbrook funds cut from budget

May 14, 1993|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden has pulled the plug on Sudbrook Middle School.

One line in his budget, eliminating $500,000 the school board requested to equip the building, is enough to halt plans to reopen the 1,000-seat school with innovative magnet programs in math, science, performing arts and language.

It also might force a boundary change that would affect Pikesville, Old Court and Woodlawn middle school students and renew the controversy over racial makeup that had plagued Sudbrook since the late 1970s.

To relieve crowding at predominantly white Pikesville, the school department could now be forced to move students to the other two schools, which are predominantly black. That opens legal questions and raises community concerns that the department was trying to avoid with the Sudbrook magnet plan.

"This is just beyond belief," Superintendent of Schools Stuart Berger said of the budget decision. "The county insists that we redistrict. Can the county executive do this? Yes. Should he be doing this? Absolutely not."

Merreen Kelly, the county administrative officer, defended the budget. "We saw there was space all around. We're trying to develop a system that deals in realism, not a wish list," he said.

Although the budget was announced last month, the Sudbrook death blow came to light only this week, when school system officials met with county budget officers to discuss capital expenditures.

The news that Sudbrook, which was closed in 1983 because of declining enrollments would not reopen in September 1994, seemed to shock school system officials. During the year, dozens of community residents participated in public hearings and committee meetings on who should use the Pikesville-area school and how. And the board appointed a principal last month.

Mr. Kelly said he did not know about plans to reopen Sudbrook until recently, but the initial request for equipment funding was included in last year's budget, "with the proviso that before any money was spent there would be community involvement in the best way to run the school," said Councilman Melvin G. Mintz, who represents the 2nd District, where Sudbrook is located.

That agreement was made with Robert Y. Dubel, the former superintendent, and continued with Dr. Berger, he said.

"It's a shame that the hard work of this committee and the community's hard work is being abrogated. I thought it was a wonderful approach," Mr. Mintz said.

At its last meeting, the school board approved a plan to open Sudbrook as the county's first middle school magnet, specializing in the visual and performing arts, foreign languages and math, science and computer technology. It would have been open to all sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders in the western part of the county.

Mr. Kelly said Sudbrook was not taken out of the budget because of its program but because the area is not that crowded. Based on the number of teachers funded for those schools, the budget office figured that neighboring Woodlawn and Old Court middle schools could provide space for about 650 students and that Pikesville Middle is only 28 over capacity.

Using a different formula, Mr. Kraft maintains that Pikesville is about 110 students over capacity this year and that the other schools have about 500 extra seats between them. He says the budget office estimates school capacity at 8 percent more than the school system does.

Scott Barhight, chairman of the Sudbrook Committee and a Towson lawyer, was shocked to hear about the budget cut.

"I don't know what to say. The committee . . . thought there was a need for Sudbrook in this area. I think if we had thought there wasn't a need we would have said that. It's disappointing."

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