Baltimore's school board president yesterday expressed renewed confidence in school Superintendent Walter G. Amprey, whose resignation was demanded last week by Democratic mayoral candidate Mary Pat Clarke.
Phillip H. Farfel issued a one-page statement supportive of Dr. Amprey's nearly four years as head of the city's public schools.
"His grace, intelligence and continued leadership are exactly what we need to carry our educational programs into the next century," Mr. Farfel's statement said. "Neither political demagoguery at the local level, nor professional jealousy at the state level can be permitted to deny our children of his leadership."
Last week, Mrs. Clarke challenged Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke to seek Dr. Amprey's resignation, saying the superintendent's leadership has been ineffective. The most recent failure, Mrs. Clarke said, was last week's federal court decision ordering Dr. Amprey to punish eight high-level administrators for failing to enact court-ordered improvements for disabled students.
But Mr. Farfel defended Dr. Amprey in his statement, saying it was his "duty" as board president to defend the superintendent because Dr. Amprey has "shown great courage and vision in leading the school system through difficult times."
Mr. Farfel said a rally has been planned for 10:30 a.m. Friday in support of Dr. Amprey and the city's public schools on the front steps of the system's North Avenue headquarters.
"I hope the rally is not focused purely on me but on the efforts we've made to improve the school system," Dr. Amprey said late yesterday. "I think [Mrs. Clarke] really feels it is important to attack the mayor through me. I think it is purely political, because she has said positive things about me in the past."
Mrs. Clarke's criticisms of Dr. Amprey and Mr. Schmoke last week also included other problems in the city's schools -- increased crime, high dropout rates, low test scores and woes in system management that last year forced the General Assembly to sequester $5.8 million in administrative funds from the system.
Reached while campaigning for the Sept. 12 primary yesterday evening, Mrs. Clarke said Mr. Farfel's statement carries little weight. She again called on Mr. Schmoke to take action in the school system's highest administrative level.
"This ball is in the mayor's court, not Dr. Farfel's," Mrs. Clarke said. "The school board has rubber-stamped long enough. It is time for Kurt Schmoke to take care of the children and stop worrying about the earnings and careers of his superintendent and agency heads."