Help for Northern High Partners: Participation of Morgan State and WJZ-TV is only one answer

getting more parents involved remains crucial.

November 29, 1997

THE CRY FOR HELP of Northern High School principal Alice Morgan Brown has been answered with a proposal that Morgan State University and television station WJZ help run the undisciplined school. It is good to see urban institutions and corporate citizens take on greater roles in solving the problems of their cities. But it typically involves months of careful planning to successfully institute the type of school partnership Morgan and WJZ envision.

Northern's disciplinary problems require attention now. The public has focused on last week's mass suspension of 1,200 students. But that incident was just the latest and most dramatic symptom of a much bigger problem that has for years made Northern a difficult place to teach and to be taught. In fact, Ms. Brown abruptly became principal at Northern in the middle of the 1994-95 school year because her predecessor had not effectively handled the students' lack of discipline.

Two years later the situation hasn't improved. Students do as they please. Teachers are afraid of being assaulted. Too many parents don't care. The lack of respect for Ms. Brown was clear in the students' refusal to obey her orders to return to class. Her authority is weak. Ironically, the mass suspension she ordered in desperation has some people comparing her to Joe Clark, the disciplinarian principal immortalized in the movie, "Lean on Me."

Ms. Brown is no Joe Clark, but Northern may need that type of principal. Unfortunately, interim school system CEO Robert Schiller and a new Baltimore school board that was appointed to bring about more accountability have failed to head in that direction.

That's not to say the new alliance with Morgan State and WJZ shouldn't be forged. Some ideas may develop that could help other schools, but it will take time to figure out what those ideas are. WJZ general manager Marcellus Alexander said his station could raise money to help Northern, but Ms. Brown isn't sure how that money should be spent.

What Northern needs most is a better relationship with the parents of its students. Improved discipline won't occur without parents' help. Yet even the mass suspension didn't bring a lot more parents into the school. Northern High is an urban school with all the problems that entails, including poor parental involvement. The right leadership has made a difference at other city schools. It could make a difference at Northern.

Pub Date: 11/29/97

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