City schools' top officials oppose deal with state Superintendent, head of board raise protests

January 19, 1996|By Jean Thompson | Jean Thompson,SUN STAFF

Departing from the public stance of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Baltimore's top school officials yesterday opposed a proposal that would increase Maryland's role in running city schools.

The officials spoke out with the knowledge of the mayor, who seems to be trying to placate them as he continues to negotiate a proposal that could eliminate their jobs.

Schools Superintendent Walter G. Amprey and school board President Phillip H. Farfel said they met Wednesday night with Mr. Schmoke to urge him to leave the current administration intact.

They said the mayor promised to consult them before making a decision, but Mr. Schmoke's public position is that joint control likely will be necessary to win an increase in state school aid.

Mr. Schmoke did not comment on the officials' statements yesterday.

Dr. Amprey and Mr. Farfel previously had agreed on the advice of lawyers not to comment on pending school funding lawsuits that are at the center of talks about designing a new school government.

Yesterday, both men said they could no longer maintain their silence and used their official positions to cast doubt on the negotiations.

"I happen to think we have an ideal situation now," Dr. Amprey said at a news conference.

"The advantage of this system is that I work directly for a board and the mayor. We're able to pierce the bureaucracy.

"I think that is ideal."

Each said he told the mayor of concerns and skepticism about the secretly negotiated proposal that would eliminate the school board and superintendent's post.

The proposal calls for schools to be run by three executives and a governing board appointed jointly by the city and state.

A better way to reform Baltimore schools, Mr. Farfel said in an interview, would be for Maryland to give Baltimore more money "so that our children have art and music and physical education, career-tech opportunities and nurses, and all of the things that money buys for children in the suburban schools."

In the city's school-funding lawsuit against the state, Mr. Farfel is listed twice -- once in his school board role and once as a plaintiff representing his school-age daughter.

Dr. Amprey said he wants additional funds for "attitudinal reform for the adults and professional development for teachers and the people who supervise teachers."

He would use some of the money for training programs that raise school employees' expectations of children's abilities so that students will perform better.

But Irene B. Dandridge, president of the Baltimore Teachers Union, questioned his priorities.

"I think as long as we try to be defensive and not deal with what the basic realities are, we aren't going to get anything," she said. "The reality is, our students are not doing well.

"The public isn't interested in all these things like attitudinal reform and staff development -- they are only interested in results. That's what we as teachers are interested in: results."

The school chiefs claimed success at improving student achievement and management. They charged that Maryland officials choose neither to acknowledge their gains nor to provide the money needed for further progress.

Both said alternatives to joint control should be considered.

"All of our frenetic activities over the last four years have not been business as usual," Mr. Farfel said, citing recently announced plans to revamp the schools' system for teacher evaluation and to reorganize the city's high schools.

The $4 million increase in the state allocation for city schools, announced Wednesday as part of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's proposed budget for the next fiscal year, is too paltry to help Baltimore make significant improvements, he said.

That proposal would increase Baltimore's total share of education aid from $420 million to $424 million. The city's school budget is $649 million.

"That money will at best keep us steady-state, and more than likely we'll tread backward," Mr. Farfel said.

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