Amprey launches shake-up

April 06, 1994|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,Sun Staff Writer

Baltimore Superintendent Walter G. Amprey's two deputies -- both hired along with him in 1991 after competing for the job he got -- have become the first targets of his "top-down" shake-up at city school headquarters.

"This is just the beginning of a major, major reorganization from the top down," said Dr. Amprey, now in his third year at the helm.

Dr. Amprey is asking the school board to demote Lillian Gonzalez and Patsy Baker Blackshear, who were hired as part of a troika in an unprecedented arrangement engineered by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and the school board.

As of July 1, Dr. Gonzalez, who oversees instruction, and Dr. Blackshear, who oversees management services, will be demoted to associate superintendents if the board approves the moves, as it is expected to do.

They would no longer report to Dr. Amprey, but to Patricia Newby, who would be promoted to become the sole deputy superintendent.

Dr. Amprey said the broader restructuring could result in dozens of employees being demoted or moved to other jobs as the school system shifts more authority and staff members from headquarters to individual schools.

Predicting "drastic moves" between now and next school year, he said, "We need to move all we can to the schools. We don't have enough staff in the classroom. We don't have the folks to meet the needs on the ground, in the schools."

The first moves in the shake-up come about three weeks after Dr. Amprey told his 177 principals that he was giving them more autonomy to run their schools by letting them control $32 million now in the hands of school headquarters.

Decentralization, which began with 24 experimental "enterprise schools" this year, will give individual schools much more say in spending for libraries, janitorial staff, teacher training, gifted-and-talented programs and other services.

Dr. Amprey called Dr. Newby, who came to Baltimore from the Montgomery County schools in 1992, an ideal candidate to help in the restructuring, which he said would take three years.

Along with overseeing schools in the Southwest area, Dr. Newby has led the schools system's planning to stave off threatened state intervention at Frederick Douglass and Patterson high schools.

The superintendent said he had no qualms about with the board's decision to hire the troika and had pledged from the beginning to give the arrangement time to work.

But he said he decided within the past few months to demote Dr. Gonzalez, who left an assistant superintendent's job with Washington's school system to come here, and Dr. Blackshear, who has worked in the Baltimore system since 1989.

"I've had the chance now to see their work, and I'm comparing what they do with the work of Pat Newby," he said.

"I'm basing this on the whole idea of selecting somebody who really has your dream and your vision for the school system and your drive and commitment and your energy. Pat Newby just outshines the others."

Without directly criticizing Dr. Gonzalez or Dr. Blackshear, he added, "Dr. Newby demonstrates at every level that she respects my philosophy and my approach and my sense of total commitment to change, which has not been done by others in the organization."

Efforts to reach Dr. Gonzalez, Dr. Blackshear and Dr. Newby yesterday were unsuccessful.

Some continue to question the wisdom of the city's decision to pick Dr. Amprey's two deputies.

"Quite frankly, from the beginning, we thought it was like saddling the new chief executive with two deputies not of his own choosing," said Jeff Valentine, deputy executive director of the Greater Baltimore Committee.

Phillip H. Farfel, the school board president, defended the city's decision and said the three members of the leadership team have worked well together.

He also praised Dr. Amprey for taking a few years to assess the district's direction and staffing at headquarters before embarking on major changes.

"He decided to use the approach of taking the first couple of years to establish vision, establish direction and get the community buying in," he said.

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