Give the Stadium School a chance

March 10, 1994

Given Baltimore City school Superintendent Walter G. Amprey's willingness to experiment with alternatives to the tired old ways of running city schools, his opposition to the Stadium School Project is mystifying.

Dr. Amprey has blessed the nine profit-making Tesseract schools and at least three other approaches to education in the city that turn some or all of the authority for operating schools over to outside agencies or organizations. Yet when parents approach him with the idea of forming a neighborhood school to be operated with public funds, he resists, insisting that only a school within an existing school, not one to be operated separately, "fits in with the overall vision of the school system."

This is the same kind of reasoning the city heard from Richard C. Hunter, Dr. Amprey's predecessor, who rejected a community group's plan to bring the curriculum of the private Calvert School to Barclay Elementary. It wasn't Dr. Hunter's idea; it hadn't been approved by the North Avenue bureaucracy. Allow one school to do this, and others will want to follow. And so on. Mayor Schmoke interceded, the Barclay-Calvert partnership was launched, Dr. Hunter was soon gone and three years later the partnership received a glowing evaluation.

In this case, too, the mayor approves, as well he might. This is no fly-by-night group of segregationists. It's biracial; it wants to reflect the majority-black enrollment of the four neighborhoods comprising the project. Organizers have been working for two years on the plan. Their goals are simple: They want a small school in which their children can have "mutually respectful and supportive relationships" and where teachers will stress high academic standards. They've promised to meet the tough state standards of accountability -- or to go out of business. Moreover, they've insisted that Dr. Amprey and his administration apply rigid standards when other parent groups seek to establish their own schools.

Dr. Amprey's protests ring hollow. He seems to forget that parent activism is woefully rare in the city school system. Tesseract, designed in large part to turn a profit for stockholders and executives in Minneapolis, is allowed in Baltimore. Yet here are city residents with no profit motive and with a plan at least as educationally sound as Tesseract. It would be the height of irony if Tesseract is within Dr. Amprey's "overall vision," while the Stadium School Project is not.

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