Md. rejects city plan for Patterson High

April 19, 1994|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,Sun Staff Writer

A city plan to remove "academically bankrupt" Patterson High School's entire staff in hopes of averting state intervention there has been rejected at least temporarily by state officials, state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick said today.

Dr. Grasmick also announced that the state has accepted key provisions of a much less radical plan aimed at revitalizing TC Frederick Douglass High, which also has been under state scrutiny to reverse its academic decline.

The decisions, announced today, will require the city to devise a new plan for rejuvenating Patterson.

But both Dr. Grasmick and city Superintendent Walter G. Amprey said a new plan for the East Baltimore school could still call for removal of the entire Patterson staff, but will have to provide many more specifics on how to improve the school.

Dr. Grasmick said the city's Patterson proposal -- which called for removing all 130 staffers and forcing them to compete for jobs with applicants from within and outside the district -- lacked enough specifics to convince her it would improve the school.

She said she would recommend to the state school board next Tuesday that the city be required to develop a new plan for Patterson. If the board approves the recommendation, as expected, the city could then appeal the rejection, or proceed with writing a new plan.

Dr. Amprey defended the Patterson plan, saying it didn't include many details because he was reluctant to impose an entire school program on the new staff that the school system envisioned putting in place.

He said city school administrators have not decided whether to appeal the Patterson plan's rejection.

Nonetheless, Dr. Amprey praised the state's efforts to make local districts more accountable for results and pledged to work closely with state education officials.

"We recognize that there are deficiencies in our school system that we must assiduously address," he said. "We have been totally cooperative and have attempted to be compliant."

Dr. Grasmick had been considering improvement plans sent by the city school system April 1 for Patterson and for Douglass, the only two Maryland schools targeted for possible state takeover under a new "academic bankruptcy" measure.

The state superintendent identified the two schools as targets in January as part of an unprecedented state effort to reverse the slide at schools beset by continuously worsening attendance, dropout rates and standardized test scores. No other Maryland schools will be targeted this year.

Under the new measure, if she rejects an improvement plan, the state could force the local school system to change principals, staff, curriculum or teaching methods. The measure also allows the state to turn over operation of the schools to a private company or university.

State money could be withheld from local school systems that refuse to comply, but local systems would be given 10 days to challenge a takeover in a hearing before the state school board.

The plans for Patterson and Douglass stress staff training to improve teaching; more emphasis on career and technology programs; new summer programs for incoming ninth-graders who need remedial help and four-period days, which provide longer classes.

Both plans also call for more tutoring; better monitoring of attendance and student progress; more efforts to involve parents and the community; tougher disciplinary policies; more mentoring programs; and self-contained programs known as "schools within a school."

Douglass' plan would divide the school into programs including career and technology, entrepreneurships, music and pre-military. The school also would create a "family-support center" offering everything from wake-up calls for students to employment training for parents.

At Douglass, 38 percent of all students dropped out during the last school year, compared with a statewide average of 5.2 percent. About 16 percent of Patterson's students dropped out.

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