Rally organizers say state's bid to reform city schools will fail 14 groups to sponsor protest on Sept. 19 at Douglass High School

September 10, 1996|By Marilyn McCraven | Marilyn McCraven,SUN STAFF

State efforts to reform Baltimore's public schools will be vehemently rebuffed, say organizers of a Sept. 19 rally designed to show community opposition to what they see as a state takeover.

With about 50 Douglass High School students in the background, speakers at a news conference on the school's lawn yesterday put state officials on notice that they believe Baltimore will not agree to have Annapolis run its schools.

The speakers represented a variety of the 14 groups sponsoring the rally, including the Baltimore City Teachers Union, and neighborhood, religious and parental organizations.

"The problem with a state takeover now is that no one knows if the state would make [the schools] better," said the Rev. Arnold Howard, president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and pastor of Enon Baptist Church in West Baltimore.

Besides, he said, "The inability of Baltimore City to run its school system is directly affected by the inequality in resources."

Speakers were critical of the General Assembly for withholding $24 million in state aid to city schools in an effort to force Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke toward more accountability in the school system and toward a "city-state partnership" for running the schools, something some speakers called a takeover.

The Rev. Daki Napata, who has two children in city schools, said organizers want parents of schoolchildren and others to pack Douglass' auditorium on Sept. 19 to underscore their opposition to what they perceive as a takeover.

When the General Assembly reconvenes, organizers plan a State House rally to demand equitable funding for Baltimore City schools.

The Save Our Children Coalition, which is sponsoring the rally, has some of the same players as an earlier effort to prevent a state takeover of Douglass High School. The coalition was successful in getting the state to significantly modify plans to reconstitute the school.

"Our main point is that Baltimore schools historically have been underfunded. No money should be withheld from these schools," said Napata.

As for Superintendent Walter G. Amprey -- who has been charged with battering his wife -- Napata said coalition organizers will leave his fate up to the mayor.

One person concerned with Amprey's future is Phillip A. Brown, an unsuccessful candidate for a 3rd District City Council seat, who announced a 10 a.m. rally of 25 to 30 people in support of Amprey in front of the school system's North Avenue headquarters. However, Brown was the only one who showed up.

A former president of the parent-teacher group at Cecil Elementary, Brown said he was prompted to speak out in Amprey's defense after the mayor said he would convene the school board to conduct "a careful review" if the courts determine that Amprey battered his wife Aug. 24 in their West Baltimore home, as she claims.

"With state officials wanting to get rid of Dr. Amprey, I hope the mayor doesn't use this as a tool to say this is a way out," Brown said.

Amprey has denied the allegations. He has been ordered to appear in court Oct. 11 to answer the common-law charge of battery.

Pub Date: 9/10/96

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