Schmoke agrees to school site at Memorial Stadium

June 17, 1994|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Sun Staff Writer Joanna Daemmrich contributed to this article.

Parents battling red tape to create their own neighborhood school in Waverly moved closer to their goal yesterday when Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke agreed that the school should be housed at Memorial Stadium.

Residents and community leaders are determined to have the Stadium School open for grades four through nine by this September.

"If we just wanted to do bake sales and let [the school board] run everything else, they'd love us," said John Erby, a parent. "If we succeed, we're a threat."

In a letter to the City Council released after he toured the old ballpark with Stadium School leaders, Mr. Schmoke said the school "will be sited" in first floor offices on the east side of the stadium.

Developers of the school, who have been fighting the school board for months to run the project as they see fit, hope to jump their last major hurdle this afternoon when they meet again with the mayor to discuss funding.

The board must approve the Memorial Stadium site. For months, it rejected the project, finally agreeing to move forward with the idea in March while retaining ultimate governing authority.

At last night's school board meeting, in which Stadium School leaders caustically chastised board members for dragging their feet on the 80-student project, board president Phillip H. Farfel announced proposed funding for the school at $4,869 per pupil, describing it as "generous."

Jay Gillen, a key leader of the new school effort, said that figure was not legitimate because it included $50,000 in start-up money that can not be counted on in the future.

"We hope to get a figure from the mayor [today] that will actually be budgeted for the school," said Dr. Gillen, an educator.

Funding for the school was a major issue at last night's City Council meeting. Seven council members twice failed to guarantee for the Stadium School the same $6,000 per-pupil funding received by the for-profit Educational Alternatives Inc., a Minnesota-based private company now managing 12 city schools.

Councilman Carl Stokes, a 2nd District Democrat and chairman of the Education Committee, introduced two budget amendments to provide the same resources and autonomy to the Stadium School as those extended to EAI schools.

His plan to cut about $4 million from the central administration budget would have allowed other schools "to be able to access equal funding, equal resources, and also to have the autonomy to move the money in their schools as the EAI-managed schools are doing."

Although last night's council effort died, the issue was brought up again hours later at the school board. Advocates of the Stadium School, argue that only a small school free of the central bureaucracy can create an atmosphere of true learning.

"Just because we don't want to make a profit off of our kids doesn't mean we shouldn't have the money to run a school effectively," said Alexine Campbell, a Stadium School parent. "How come we're less deserving than a for-profit corporation?"

The other Stadium School issue left unresolved after last night's school board meeting was how many grades the school would teach. The board wants four through eight, while supporters desire a ninth grade.

"We've offered a lot of compromises already," said Dr. Farfel. "I certainly hope this can move along rather swiftly."

Dr. Gillen was adamant last night that the board's opinion wouldn't affect what happens in the 33rd Street classrooms this September.

"We've already accepted ninth graders," he said. "And we're going to educate them."

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