City schools seeking a positive spin, to present innovations at conference Baltimore system to hold national event this week

January 29, 1996|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

An article in Monday's editions of The Sun should have said that the cost of the Baltimore public schools' conference, "Promising Practices in Education," was paid for by the Baltimore City Foundation.

The Sun regrets the error.

After months of dealing with a succession of negatives, from budget deficits to threats from state officials to take partial control of the system, Baltimore public school officials are ready to accentuate the positive.

The Baltimore public school system is sponsoring a national conference this week that will highlight its education innovations. "Promising Practices in Education" will begin today at the Baltimore Convention Center and continue until Wednesday. The conference theme is "Spotlight on School Success: Pathway to the 21st Century," and almost 1,000 people have registered.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Planning for the conference began more than a year ago, before many of the school system's present woes mushroomed.

"Well over a year ago, I realized that school districts from outside of the state and outside of the city were always calling me and asking about things we were doing," said schools Superintendent Walter G. Amprey. "It seemed to them we were on the cutting edge of educational reform, especially when it came to urban education."

Dr. Amprey, who went through a grueling session in Annapolis Friday with state legislators who are withholding $5.9 million in state education funding until school officials institute administrative reforms, said the conference could be a tonic for school employees.

"Obviously, we didn't have that in mind in the very beginning," he said. "But it does keep us on track and helps us focus on the positive. But it wasn't designed for that purpose."

Today and tomorrow are professional development days for Baltimoreteachers, which means there will be no classes, enabling teachers to attend the conference. The cost of the conference is being paid by the Baltimore Community Foundation, with "not one nickel" of city money being used, Dr. Amprey said.

The conference will feature 77 workshops on programs in Baltimore's city schools today and tomorrow, with tours of schools scheduled on Wednesday. The programs include some of the well-known initiatives, like the Calvert Curriculum used at Barclay and Carter G. Woodson elementary schools, the partnership with Sylvan Learning Centers and the Center for Attitudinal and Behavioral Reform at Tench Tilghman Elementary School.

A workshop even is planned on the Tessaract program that was run by Minneapolis-based Education Alternative Inc. at nine city schools, which the school board voted last year to discontinue. The city's contract with EAI runs out in March.

"Other people from outside the community might like to learn about it," said Rebecca McAndrew, an executive assistant to Deputy Superintendent Patricia E. Newby and a conference organizer. The contract was terminated for economic reasons, she said, not educational reasons.

Linda Prudente, a spokeswoman for Baltimore Teachers Union, said the concept for the conference is a good thing for teachers, offering them a rare opportunity to network with colleagues.

"Conferences like this expose them to different educational strategies, different successful practices they can adapt for their own schools," she said.

But the $50 entrance fee for participants will keep many of her members away, although some schools will pay for their teachers to go, Ms. Prudente said. Having to pay to attend the conference particularly grates, she said, after Dr. Amprey said last week that he is considering deferring 10 days of pay for school employees to help cover a $32 million budget deficit. The teachers union has said it considers such a pay deferment a furlough, which is prohibited by its contract with the district.

"On the one hand, it takes $50 to go to this conference, and a few months down the road, [the school system is] going to furlough you 10 days," Ms. Prudente said. "The timing stinks, I guess."

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