Schmoke says he supports Amprey Mayor tells Cabinet to ignore reports deal forces out schools chief

August 06, 1996|By Rafael Alvarez and Michael Dresser | Rafael Alvarez and Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Stating his "full and unqualified support" for Baltimore schools Superintendent Walter G. Amprey, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke told his Cabinet yesterday to disregard any recent documents, materials or news reports "suggesting that Dr. Amprey will be asked to resign."

The mayor's comments, distributed to his full Cabinet in a one-page memo, were disputed last night by state school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, with whom the city has been fighting to retain control of Baltimore public schools.

A proposed partnership between the city and state to resolve the conflict -- still in the "conceptual" stage, according to Grasmick -- would put a board of trustees in charge of city schools.

That board, made up of city residents, would hire a chief operating officer to run the system. If the board does not have such authority, Grasmick said, the state will not agree to the proposed partnership.

She added that Schmoke's memo "would seem to fly in the face of that criterion."

Part of the four-paragraph memo states: "Furthermore, Dr. Grasmick, speaking on behalf of herself and the Maryland State Board of Education, also said that there would be no requirement, or request from her or the MSBE, that Dr. Amprey resign."

To this, Grasmick replied: "That is totally inconsistent" with the informal agreement thus far negotiated to resolve the state's charge that Baltimore is not meeting the needs of its public school students.

The Schmoke memo also says: "Dr. Amprey has not been asked by me or anyone else to resign his position. The discussions that have been going on between the City and State for the last several months about the future of the schools have not involved, and will not involve, any understanding or agreement to remove Dr. Amprey."

Schmoke could not be reached last night. A spokesman for Gov. Parris N. Glendening said the administration would have no comment on Baltimore school issues until today, when Chief of Staff Major F. Riddick Jr. is expected to appear at a joint hearing of the Senate Budget and Taxation and House Appropriations committees.

Schmoke, Glendening and state education officials have been embroiled for months in tense and complicated negotiations to improve the way children are educated in Baltimore. Recent plans include a deal in which the mayor would support the legalization of slot machines in exchange for $25 million a year in school funding from the slots revenues.

Permeating all of it has been speculation on what role, if any, Amprey would play in a reconfigured city school system.

Last week, a restructuring of school government proposed by Schmoke and Glendening to settle a long-running legal dispute over state aid and city school management would have eliminated Amprey's job. Amprey said last night the mayor's memo makes clear that his job would not be threatened regardless of the outcome.

"I'm well aware of statements about me not being there, but I have not heard anyone suggest poor performance on my part. Even when [my possible dismissal] was in the news, the mayor has been adamant that I wouldn't be a part of that," Amprey said.

"That doesn't mean that there aren't those who wouldn't like to see that happen or that this won't come up again. But the mayor has said there's no reason at all for there to be any exclusion of Walter Amprey from the leadership of the school system."

In a related matter, Schmoke notified Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman and Del. Howard P. Rawlings that he will not accept an invitation to appear at a joint hearing of Hoffman's Senate Budget and Taxation Committee and Rawlings' House Appropriations Committee today to discuss the schools partnership.

The mayor said that because his vacation ended yesterday and the governor's isn't over until Friday, the two have not been able to get together to "reduce our concepts into a memorandum of understanding."

Schmoke told the two powerful Baltimore Democrats he wants to meet with the governor to review such a memorandum before he appears before legislative committees regarding the issue.

Pub Date: 8/06/96

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