New wheels for roving library Bookmobile: Teacher Peter Bradford has another vehicle to take books to young readers on the streets. Harlem Park children painted the old van in appreciative farewell.

The Education Beat

November 02, 1997|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF Sun intern Christin Allison contributed to this column.

PETER BRADFORD'S van is nearing The End, and what better way to say goodbye than to have his students paint it the colors of the rainbow?

That's what they did Thursday afternoon in the dreary parking lot of Harlem Park Elementary School, where Bradford teaches fourth grade.

He is also West Baltimore's itinerant librarian.

Once or twice a week year-round, Bradford stocks his 11-year-old van with donated children's books. Then he cruises the corners of Harlem Park and surrounding neighborhoods in search of young readers. He lends the books and requires book reports.

"Everyone thinks I'm crazy," said Bradford, 32, whose book-filled van is a familiar sight along the mean streets. "So no one ever messes with my van."

Time and mileage, though, have taken a toll. When we last caught up with Bradford and his sidekick -- fellow teacher Robin Christopher -- it was early August, and Bradford's van was suffering heat exhaustion.

Now it's midautumn, and the vehicle, 150,000 miles old, is headed for wherever expired bookmobiles go. No doubt it's a good place.

Thursday's farewell painting was an educational exercise. Bradford and Marni Fenwick, a fifth-grade teacher whose students were in Bradford's class last year, had prepared their children with lessons about Appalachia and New England. The children painted lighthouses, trees, mountain and shore scenes.

"That's a natural resource," Danielle Ray, a 10-year-old fifth-grader, declared proudly as she pointed to the yellow and green apple tree she had rendered on the van's left rear door.

The students also had to fill out work sheets (in complete sentences). It had MSPAP, the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program, written all over it: "Take some time and ponder why Mr. Bradford paints the van and delivers books across the neighborhood. Explain why these things are good ideas."

Although Bradford's '86 Plymouth will soon be gone, another used van will take its place, thanks to a $5,000 donation from a benefactor Bradford declined to name.

Tomas Moore, a 9-year-old in Bradford's class, already has plans. "If only Mr. Bradford changed it into a hot rod, we can paint on it, and when he drives it, it will go 350 mph."

EAI goes for the gold

There's gold in them thar charter schools, and guess who's prospecting for it: Education Alternatives Inc., the same Minnesota company that tried and failed to run nine Baltimore schools for profit a few years ago.

Permitted in 29 states and the District of Columbia, charter schools are taxpayer-funded schools that operate independently.

"The charter school movement is finally giving communities a chance to do something about their discomfort with the status quo," says John Golle, chairman and chief executive of EAI, which recently landed 12 public school charters in a 15-year deal with the state of Arizona.

EAI isn't the only company vying for charter school business. Profit-seeking companies are operating about 10 percent of the nation's 750 charter schools.

Look for legislation in the General Assembly this winter to bring the movement officially to Maryland.

Hurrahs for Hornbeck

David Hornbeck may be a prophet without honor in his home town. The superintendent of schools in Philadelphia, who was Maryland state school superintendent for a dozen years in the '70s and '80s, has been getting wonderful press -- but not in the City of Brotherly Love.

The Boston Globe and USA Today have published upbeat stories on Hornbeck recently, and he was featured positively on PBS' "Merrow Report." But the Philadelphia media haven't climbed on the bandwagon.

Test scores are on the way up in Philadelphia, and Hornbeck is praised for reforms he's brought about in three tumultuous years. In a curious recent turn, the Globe article says, white school board members have deserted Hornbeck, who is white, while African-Americans have crossed to his side.

Termed by the Globe "a charismatic leader, but a dogmatic and often abrasive one," Hornbeck, 56, was the front-runner for a time in the competition for the Baltimore superintendency in 1991.

Maybe he could be lured back. We hear there's an opening.

Poly, City rivals take a vow

Poly and City, those bitter rivals in education and athletics, have entered a sportsmanship pact for the 109th City-Poly football game Saturday.

Signed by the principals, head drum majors, head cheerleaders and other school leaders, the pact commits fans to refrain from violence and to demonstrate "the values of caring, respect and responsibility."

"We will NOT jeer, taunt or disrespect the team, cheerleaders, band, mascot, students or representatives of our opponents," says the agreement.

Pub Date: 11/02/97

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