Big changes lie ahead for city schools New board, chief must be chosen, aid spending plan adopted

April 08, 1997|By Jean Thompson and Eric Siegel | Jean Thompson and Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

For the rest of the year, Baltimore City public schools will be very much a work in progress.

During this time, a new school board must be named, an interim and permanent school chief must be chosen, a parent advisory council has to be created and a plan has to be drafted on how to spend new education aid.

When the governor signs the legislation adopted yesterday, the months ahead promise to be a creative, tumultuous time, marked by debates over improving the school system and high-level turnover, beginning with the exodus of Superintendent Walter G. Amprey.

nTC Yesterday, he pledged his and his staff's cooperation, saying, "We have to make sure that every bit of the transition is as smooth as possible and not disruptive to the children's education."

The first order of business will be for Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Gov. Parris N. Glendening to pick a volunteer nine-member school board from a list of at least 18 names culled by the State Board of Education from a list of about 120 candidates.

Schmoke said in a recent interview that he does not expect an announcement about the makeup of the new board until May at the earliest, saying that he and the governor had yet to decide how they were going to proceed.

"We haven't even talked about process yet," the mayor said. "The governor got the list [from the state board] and put it away until after the session."

The state board has declined to release the finalists' names, citing the confidentiality of personnel matters. Several public officials, community leaders and union representatives have criticized what they have characterized as the closed nature of the selection process.

"I don't think there should be any cloud of secrecy," said City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III, a sharp critic of the school deal. "It raises a lot of suspicion when it's handled that way."

Added Christyne L. Neff, an attorney for several unions of school employees, "If we don't know who's on the list, how can we provide input?"

When the mayor and governor make their appointments, the new school board will have to move quickly.

Under the legislation adopted yesterday, the board must appoint an interim chief executive officer to oversee the 110,000-student school system by June 15. The interim CEO is not eligible to hold the job permanently.

A permanent chief is to be on board by Oct. 30, although extensions to Dec. 31 are permissible for "extenuating circumstances."

The CEO will appoint a chief academic officer to oversee instructional matters and a chief financial officer to supervise the board's expanded powers over the budget and purchasing.

Amprey, whose position will not exist in the revamped hierarchy, is negotiating a settlement on the 15 months left under his $140,000-a-year contract.

The legislation calls for city schools to get $30 million in the coming year of the five-year commitment of $254 million. Half of that money is to arrive at the beginning of the new fiscal year July 1. The other half will be delivered when the new school board adopts an initial spending plan.

A more comprehensive plan on school reform is due Jan. 1.

The transition will be monitored by the federal court, the American Civil Liberties Union, and other groups.

Session's winners and losers

Score-keeping is one of the great political pastimes in Annapolis. Here, in no particular order, is a list of some winners and losers from the 1997 General Assembly session.

UP AND DOWN - Parris N. Glendening: A governor's power should bring him wins across the board, but several of Glendening's bills were killed this year and others were significantly altered.

UP AND DOWN - Casper R. Taylor Jr.: Resisting what must have been an overwhelming urge to let the governor's program blow up in the governor's face, the House speaker delivered on a range of key issues and seized the high ground on campaign finance reform. But a responsible leadership position may have hurt him politically. It's hard to see how this session gives a Taylor candidacy for governor any momentum.

UP - Thomas V. Mike Miller: The Senate president ran his #F chamber masterfully. His choice of income tax plans prevailed, and if it results in future deficits, his plan for slots at the race tracks could look more attractive.

UP -Tobacco industry: Big Tobacco emerged as the session's clearest winner as every proposal to increase tobacco taxes or limit sales through vending machines went up in smoke.

DOWN - Maryland dairy farms: It was bad enough that their plan to regulate milk prices failed. But did the Senate have to kill the bill making milk the state drink?

DOWN - Maryland Chamber of Commerce: After its stumbling performance alienated Republicans and Democrats alike, the chamber saw half of its tax cut go to the little guy.

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