Douglass intervention denounced

April 22, 1994|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,Sun Staff Writer

A leader of a broad coalition fighting state intervention at Frederick Douglass High School last night denounced a measure targeting the troubled Douglass and Patterson high schools in Baltimore as "mean-spirited arrogance."

The Rev. Daki Napata, one of three co-chairs of the "Save Our School Douglass Coalition," charged that city school system officials had ignored coalition members' concern that the state measure left inadequate time to devise a plan to improve the school.

Speaking before the city school board, Mr. Napata also said the state "academic bankruptcy" measure did not consider funding inequities that left poor schools with little money for improvements.

He said the coalition took no solace in the fact that Douglass averted immediate state takeover this week when state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick gave conditional approval to plan designed to improve the school.

She added conditions the city must meet in 30 days unless it appeals. Dr. Grasmick rejected the city's plan to stave off state intervention at Patterson by removing the school's staff. But she said she supported that idea -- and rejected the plan because it lacks enough specifics to guarantee improvements after any shake-up.

Mr. Napata, a minister at Union Baptist Church in West Baltimore, dismissed as a "pseudo-plan" the 44-page strategy calling for, among other things, separate academic and career programs at Douglass.

He harshly criticized Dr. Grasmick, city Superintendent Walter G. Amprey and the state school board, saying they failed to involve members of the community in devising the plan.

A team including Douglass Principal Orrester Shaw, teachers, parents worked with top school system officials in writing the plan.

MA Mr. Napata acknowledged that the team included at least three

members of the coalition.

But he said their concerns had been ignored and insisted that the state plans to turn Douglass over to a private contractor, as the intervention measure allows as a last step.

He said many of the more than 200 people who attended a meeting at Douglass Monday night to express their concerns also feared the school would end up in the hands of a private operator.

The coalition, formed in response to the state measure, includes parents, clergy, merchants, lawmakers, and representatives of the Baltimore Teachers Union and the Maryland State Teachers Association.

Dr. Amprey defended the plan and said he had made every effort to hear from members of the community and had discussed the plan with Mr. Napata.

Dr. Amprey said extreme measures are necessary to save Douglass, which has been beset by worsening academic performance, dropout rates and attendance.

"There's no way I'm going to let that school slide," he said.

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