Teachers to the Rescue at Kenwood

March 28, 1995

How could anyone interpret the Baltimore County school system's plan to revitalize Kenwood High as "anti-teacher"? The very essence of the plan -- let's build the best staff to save this school -- is an affirmation of the teaching profession.

Anti-teacher? That would be keeping things as they are. Kenwood's test scores are down. Dropouts are up. Kids bearing kids. With all that dysfunction, the cynics would say, what do you expect teachers to do? They can only play the hand they're dealt. Garbage in, garbage out, right?

That line of reasoning -- the one ironically parroted by the teachers' union -- damns and diminishes the craft. Teachers, in fact, make a huge difference. Any of us would include one or several on the short list of heroes who positively impacted our formative years.

In asking the present staff at Kenwood to "re-up" by week's end to continue at Kenwood next year, the system is marshaling its most effective resource. It is a bolder challenge to mentor at a school in a decayed community than in a higher-income enclave with stable households oozing parental involvement; perhaps teachers should get paid more in places tougher to teach.

The main problem with the Kenwood shake-up is in the implementation. The devil's always in the details at Greenwood. Why would Superintendent Stuart Berger require teachers to make a major career decision within a week of the plan's announcement? Why wouldn't administrators convene a task force of teachers to help craft "zero-based staffing," rather than detonate it like a land mine, raining confusion upon Essex?

Aside from the administration's public relations hamhandedness, this concept is what the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program and state "reconstitution" are about: Objectively identify schools in trouble and then help them. It would be a dereliction for Baltimore County not to address the matter at Kenwood. It would be an open invitation for the State Board of Education to step in.

It also behooves Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III to support this initiative. It is tied to his jurisdiction's economic future. The industrial east side, which turned into a "brown field" of shuttered plants and idled workers the past 20 years, may be the crucible for the county's turnaround. A prepared and ready work force on the east side, in communities such as Kenwood's, is essential. The Kenwood plan is not "finger-pointing." It's a call to arms.

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