EAI contracts OK'd for two city schools

December 09, 1993|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer Staff writer Gary Gately contributed to this article.

Baltimore's Board of Estimates approved contracts yesterday with Educational Alternatives Inc. to take over noninstructional services at two city schools, following a lengthy hearing marked by technical and philosophical discussions.

The board, which two weeks ago postponed consideration of the contracts, approved them 3-1, with Comptroller Jacqueline F. McLean voting against the proposals and City Council President Mary Pat Clarke abstaining.

The agreements, which are worth a total of $10 million, call for Minneapolis-based EAI to take over the financial management, cafeterias, security and maintenance at City College and Robert W. Coleman Elementary School as part of a citywide move to school-based management.

Baltimore has a separate five-year contract with EAI to administer teaching and support services at nine city schools as part of the "Tesseract" privatization project.

"This is not Tesseract revisited," said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, a Board of Estimates member who controls three of its five votes and whose support assured passage of the agreements. "This is third-party contracting."

Meanwhile, John T. Golle, EAI's chairman and chief executive officer, said EAI is discussing a possible role in about a dozen school districts nationwide, including the District of Columbia, where Superintendent Franklin L. Smith said Tuesday that he is considering having the company take over 10 to 15 schools.

In response a lawsuit filed last week by the Baltimore Teachers Union, the contracts approved yesterday contained several technical changes from earlier drafts. The changes were made to demonstrate the city's contention that it has not violated the school-related responsibilities set by the charter. The union maintains that the city breached the charter by hiring EAI.

Mrs. Clarke and Mrs. McLean, who have been critical of the Tesseract project from its inception, said the contracts with City College and Robert Coleman gave them $5,918 per pupil -- more than at most schools. "There should be that amount of money in every school," Mrs. Clarke said.

Mrs. McLean objected that, under the contracts, the money to be used for teacher salaries and benefits is to be deposited into an account controlled by EAI, even though the city is responsible for those payments.

Arnold M. Jolivet, president of the Maryland Minority Contractors Association, said the maintenance parts of the contracts should have been put out for competitive bids. "I have hundreds of small minority contractors who would love to have a contract like this submitted to them on a platter," he said.

The principals of City College and Robert Coleman said the contracts would improve their schools and allow them to spend more time on educational matters.

Yesterday's board action drew a threat from Glen Middleton, the president of Local 44 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents 5,000 public employees. He said the agreement would result in the transfer of custodians.

"We're planning some type of legal action. It's a violation of our contract, namely a violation of working conditions," Mr. Middleton said.

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