Angry parents assail Barclay School underfunding

January 06, 1994|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,Staff Writer

The Barclay School is flat broke. It's been forced to cancel mandatory physical education and health classes, can't afford to offer art and music and scrimps on supplies. It even came perilously close to having its copying machine repossessed for failing to make a payment.

The reason for Barclay's cash crunch: Baltimore school system headquarters underestimated this year's student enrollment, used to determine funding, by 93 students, depriving the school of more than $175,000 it should have received.

But the school system has compensated for the low projection by giving Barclay -- both an elementary and middle school with 548 students -- only about $74,500 more last fall.

Last night, Barclay Principal Gertrude Williams, City Council President Mary Pat Clarke and more than 125 parents angrily confronted school system officials, demanding that the school get more of the money they say it deserves.

"It's been hell here -- I have absolutely no money because the allocation was so off," Ms. Williams said at a meeting at the Charles Village school on Barclay Street near Greenmount Avenue.

Mary R. Nicholsonne, assistant superintendent for the northern area, apologized for the gaffe at North Avenue headquarters. She said she understood the crowd's cnncerns and pledged to recommend that the school receive at least $30,000 more to help it survive this school year.

"We recognize that you've had to suffer" because of the mistake, she said.

Mrs. Nicholsonne said the school system arrived at its enrollment projection of 455 students last spring by using enrollment from several previous years and state audits of enrollment figures at each city school.

Ms. Clarke, a former teacher, also said she wondered how the projection could have been so far off the mark.

"This is about somebody who looked at years of population in this school, subtracted 100 and then funded it this way," she said.

Barclay has received widespread praise in Baltimore and beyond for its collaboration with the private Calvert School in North Baltimore.

The nonprofit Abell Foundation began financing the partnership in the 1990-1991 school year when Calvert brought its teaching methods and curriculum stressing mastery of the basics to Barclay. The effort began with kindergarten and first-grade classes.

Calvert took on second-grade classes in the 1991-1992 school year, third grade last school year and fourth grade this fall.

The partnership has surpassed even the most optimistic expectations -- raising test scores to record levels, improving attendance and shrinking class sizes.

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