Looking after Annapolis Schools

October 05, 1993

There are so many committees, boards and task forces around these days that we tend to cringe whenever a new one is born. But Annapolis Alderman Carl Snowden's proposal to create a panel to look after the 10 schools that fall within Annapolis' city limits makes a lot of sense.

Annapolis schools have their own special needs and problems.

Rates of suspension and expulsion are higher than elsewhere in Anne Arundel County. Scholastic achievement lags behind other areas in the county, partly because Annapolis as a city has a high number of poor, black male students, two-thirds of whom are failing to achieve even a 2.0 grade-point average.

Redistricting issues are especially sensitive, controversial and complex due to the racial make-up of the city; witness how the African-American community in Annapolis last spring dispensed with traditional notions about segregation by calling for the re-opening of Adams Park Elementary -- even though that school would be predominantly black.

Until now, the Anne Arundel Board of Education and Annapolis city government have not had a bad relationship in dealing with these issues; they simply haven't had much of a relationship at all. It is more than a little amazing to realize that the first time the county board and Annapolis City Council met -- ever -- was last March, when they convened to discuss school redistricting.

Annapolis residents have been able to take concerns to the board through PTAs and citizen advisory committees, but there ought to be a more organized, perennial system of monitoring city school issues. Mr. Snowden's bill, which goes to the council Monday, would provide that.

The Snowden legislation would set up a nine-member standing committee to compile information on academics, discipline problems, redistricting and other issues, and to serve as a liaison with the school board.

Some county school board members seemed leery of the idea at first, fearing the Annapolis panel would become essentially a second school board, designed to usurp their authority. That's not the idea. Annapolis schools are part of the Anne Arundel County system, and the county school board must be the final arbiter of all decisions concerning them.

This new panel's charge would be to advise and assist, and to focus on parochial issues with an intensity that county school officials cannot.

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