Amprey divides budget

March 22, 1994|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,Sun Staff Writer

Baltimore school Superintendent Walter G. Amprey told his 177 principals yesterday that he's giving them more autonomy to run their schools by letting them control $32 million now in the hands of school headquarters.

In meetings yesterday, Dr. Amprey told the principals they will have more independence beginning July 1 -- when the next fiscal year begins -- to decide how to spend money for libraries, janitorial staff, teacher training, gifted and talented programs and other school functions. At a news conference yesterday, he said the bureaucracy at school headquarters has become "a virtual gridlock of policies and procedures" over the last 30 years. He also said he hopes to eliminate the problem by decentralizing the system.

"We're blowing that wide open so the order of the day will be that [principals] will have creativity and autonomy," he said.

The new system, called "Enterprise Schools," is a first in the city school system's history, he said.

And although giving schools more independence will not result in more money for the troubled school system, it will allow principals working with teams of teachers and parents -- called improvement teams -- to tailor education funds according to each school's needs.

The current bureaucratic quagmire at North Avenue school headquarters has led to failure, said Dr. Amprey.

"One size fits all, so no size fits," Dr. Amprey said of current policies that are dictated from North Avenue headquarters to all schools.

To aid decentralization, several headquarters employees will be reassigned to schools. In some cases, workers may be demoted, he said.

The reorganization comes a year after 24 schools were chosen for a pilot program. At Liberty Elementary School -- one of the 24 in the pilot program -- Principal Linda Chinnia was able to extend the school year through the summer for 125 students with academic problems. She said the school's improvement team got school headquarters to match a $13,000 private grant for the summer program, called "A Gift of Time." Under the old system, she said, her school never would have been allowed to start the new program.

James Patterson, principal of Pimlico Elementary School -- another school in the pilot program -- said that previously the school "had no control over who came in as a janitor." Now, he said, his school can hire part-time workers to help clean the schools.

The model for the newly decentralized schools is based on a system in Edmonton, Alberta, that has been operating for more than 12 years, according to Baltimore school officials. Dr. Amprey and other school administrators have been preparing for the reorganization for the last three years.

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