Amprey, teachers to confer

June 03, 1994|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has scheduled a meeting next week with Superintendent Walter G. Amprey and leaders of the Baltimore Teachers Union that he hopes will ease tensions set off by a recent letter warning school employees of possible layoffs or reassignments.

The meeting, planned for Tuesday night, also will focus on Dr. Amprey's plans to move money, staff and control from headquarters to individual schools, Mr. Schmoke said.

"I think once we have this meeting with the teachers union we will be able to reduce some of the anxiety, clarify the letter and get everyone focused in on [Dr. Amprey's] plans for reorganization," the mayor said at his weekly news briefing yesterday.

Mr. Schmoke said any layoffs resulting from last-minute adjustments to the city's school system budget will hit administrators at school headquarters, not teachers.

"We don't foresee layoffs of teachers," Mr. Schmoke said. "Where there will be specific layoffs and decreases will be in the central office. That's going to be the focus of the budget actions for the coming year."

Last week, Dr. Amprey sent a letter to all 10,000 school system employees, warning that a "considerable number" of them would be assigned or laid off by June 30 because of last-minute budget adjustments and the system's efforts to move to school-based management.

The letter prompted an angry response from the Baltimore Teachers Union, which dubbed it a "Memorial Day massacre" and called for Dr. Amprey's resignation.

"The aspect of the letter that talked about transfers and relocations is really that portion of the letter that is most applicable to teachers," Mr. Schmoke said.

He said it was an "unfortunate coincidence" that the letter was sent when Dr. Amprey was not available to clarify it. Dr. Amprey has been in Israel on a mission sponsored by the Baltimore

Jewish Council and is not scheduled to return to the city until this weekend.

Mr. Schmoke's comments yesterday failed to quell the anger of the city teachers' union.

"I think they bungled sending the letter out," said spokeswoman Linda Prudente.

City Council President Mary Pat Clarke agreed.

"I think it was unwise to disrupt 10,000 school employees for no good reason," Mrs. Clarke said. "We have more important things to worry about, such as how our children are achieving."

In addition to discussing the letter at Tuesday's meeting, Ms. Prudente said, the union wants to talk about expanding privatization, which it bitterly opposes, and will ask Dr. Amprey for "a public apology to all teachers."

School system spokesman Nat Harrington was more conciliatory about the meeting.

"If it results in a better understanding by the union of what the reform effort is all about, then it will have accomplished a lot," he said.

Mr. Schmoke said specialty fields where there are surplus teachers are the "one possibility" where layoffs could occur. But he added, "That is really an unlikely situation."

Some administrators at headquarters may be offered teaching or administrative positions at individual schools as part of the plan to move more staff members and authority away from the central office, the mayor said. Others will have their positions eliminated entirely, he said.

Mr. Schmoke declined to discuss how many administrators might be laid off or transferred from headquarters, saying he preferred to have Dr. Amprey present specifics after he returns from Israel.

But he noted that the school system's central bureaucracy has been reduced substantially during his administration.

At the start of the school year last September, there were 426 employees at school headquarters, Mr. Harrington said, down from 702 in 1987, the year Mr. Schmoke became mayor.

Mr. Schmoke also said the school system was considering contracting out to a private company its evening security patrols but that night-shift workers could be transferred to fill vacancies on the day shift.

Ten officers and supervisors are assigned to nighttime security work out of a force of 102, said Bernard Stokes, interim chief of the school police.

Recommendations of a task force looking at school system policing, including the issue of the privatization of nighttime security, are to be delivered to Dr. Amprey Thursday, Mr. Stokes said.

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