Board angers leaders of proposed school

June 10, 1994|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,Sun Staff Writer

Backers of a new Waverly area school to be run primarily by teachers and parents stormed out of a Baltimore school board meeting last night when the board refused to tell them how much city money the school would receive.

Leaders of the school, which would open next fall with about 100 students in grades four to nine, said board President Phillip H. Farfel had assured them at a meeting Tuesday that they would get a decision on funding last night.

The school's supporters said they plan to take the issue to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke immediately.

A bitter exchange between Dr. Farfel and leaders of the project came 2 1/2 hours after the group rallied in front of school headquarters to demand that the community-based school receive the same amount per student as those run by the for-profit Education Alternatives Inc. Dr. Farfel said the board is "extremely excited" about the Stadium School, so named because backers originally hoped to open it in Memorial Stadium offices. But he added that the proposal needed "further review" and a decision would wait up to another week.

"Dr. Farfel, you know this is really unfair," Alexine Campbell, the project's parent coordinator, said, glaring at the board president. "We're losing children."

Dr. Farfel stammered: "I really can't take. . . . You're out of order here. You're out of order here, please. . . . We're taking the time that we have a right to take."

Parent Liz Becker asked, "How many more weeks?"

"At this point," Dr. Farfel said, "I have to cut off the discussion."

But it continued in the corridor outside the jammed board room.

"He's out of order; they're out of order," Ms. Campbell snapped, pointing toward the board room entrance. "They're skirting us as usual."

Dozens of parents, many with children in tow, shared those sentiments -- after waiting more than 2 1/2 hours for a five-minute discussion because the board delayed the scheduled 6:30 p.m. start of the meeting by an hour without telling them.

The proposal has received strong endorsements from Mr. Schmoke; Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who joined last night's rally; Councilman Carl Stokes, D-2nd; four community associations; and a wide range of educators.

Mr. Schmoke has expressed support -- and has said he hoped to budget $500,000 for the school to open in September -- but left the final decision to Superintendent Walter G. Amprey and the board.

For months, the superintendent and board rejected the school, saying it would detract from efforts to improve the existing 177 schools and would lack the necessary administrative control. Instead, they offered a program within an existing school.

But in March, the board agreed to move forward with the Stadium School, with the board retaining ultimate governing authority. A "teacher-director" would be hired and would report to one of the six area superintendents rather than to a principal, the board decided.

Advocates of the Stadium School, fed up with what they call failing city schools, argue that only a small school free of the central bureaucracy would foster the commitment and enthusiasm among parents and students to ensure success.

A team of five teachers with experience in both public and private schools in Baltimore developed the original Stadium School proposal, along with about 30 parents.

They propose a school governed by a board of teachers, parents and community members. Its curriculum would stress the environment and community involvement, as well as the staples of reading, writing, math, science and social studies.

The school would guarantee that it would meet state requirements, based on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program, within five years -- or shut down.

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