City's housing stock: mend it, don't rend itAfter taking...


December 19, 1997

City's housing stock: mend it, don't rend it

After taking 35 years to recover from the first binge, many cities have sworn off the "urban renewal through demolition" approach. Unfortunately, Baltimore does not seem to be one of them.

The Sun of Dec. 9 reports that "accelerating the destruction of Class B office structures . . . is clearly near the top of the list" of remedies that city leaders are considering to reverse the decline in the central business district. This prescription is incredibly premature, given the new investment in older buildings elsewhere in the city and the tightening market for Class A office space.

Furthermore, a new comprehensive planning process is just under way. Citizens should have an opportunity to plan for their city before the professionals call in the bulldozers.

Aren't there enough parking lots to build on before we tear buildings down? Has the city done all it can to cut the red tape that may prevent reuse of these buildings?

Other cities have learned the lesson that preservation pays better than demolition -- Boston, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland among them. When it comes to Baltimore's historic fabric, only one option will do us any good: mend it, don't rend it.

Daniel Rosen


Zoned city schools as dumping grounds

Many of the problems with Northern and other zoned high schools in Baltimore are the fault of the system itself. The top middle-school students in Baltimore attend the citywide schools (City, Poly, Western, Dunbar, etc.), while the zoned schools get everyone else.

School system policy is that middle schools can move to high schools those students who are too old, too mature or too difficult to remain in middle school. A student does not even have to attend middle school in order to be moved to high school.

Thus, you have hundreds, if not thousands, of students going to their zoned high schools, not only without proper academic preparation, but without the predisposition to either attend or succeed.

In addition, these same students are given two of the Maryland functional tests after six weeks of attending the ninth grade. Then, to make matters more incomprehensible, after the students do poorly on these tests (particularly the state functional math test), the high schools are threatened with state takeover. Those test results are much more an indication of how the student did in his middle school.

In addition, zoned schools get students directly from detention (i.e., the Hickey School) without any intervention at all from the school system. I have never met anyone who thinks that this is a good idea. Yet when these students do not come to school with any regularity and do not perform adequately in the classroom, the zoned schools are held accountable.

As a 28-year veteran teacher of zoned high schools, I would suggest the following plan of action:

Stop the ''social promotion'' of middle-school students who have not achieved academically or had satisfactory attendance in middle school. Open alternative schools (of appropriate size) in each zone, or at least on each side of the city, for those students.

Have students entering (or re-entering) the system from some form of detention go to these alternative schools for at least one marking period, as a term of adjustment. Staff these alternative schools with the necessary teachers and auxiliary staff (i.e., counselors, social workers, etc.) so that students have some chance of success.

Jonathan L. Jacobson


Educators need time for training, planning

In response to the Dec. 3 article, "Lectures tell what's wrong with education," I am once again frustrated with the negative attitude of The Sun toward Baltimore County educators.

My son's fourth-grade teacher and principal attended the conference and I applaud them for taking the time to expand their skills.

On one hand, you report the lack of skills that educators have and the need to improve. On the other hand, you report negatively on these same educators attending a conference during the school day.

We can't have it both ways. If we want our educators to continually enhance their skills, they must be allowed the time to do it. If it means that my children will have a substitute periodically throughout the year, I believe that my children will benefit in the end.

If a teacher attends an all-day conference, he or she must still plan for that day. Teachers must leave detailed lesson plans for the substitutes.

Take a minute to think of the time needed to plan for each day of the school year. If you were running an all-day seminar or hosting a party at your house for more than 20 guests, how many hours would you spend planning for that one-day, one-time event? Multiply that by 180 days. Do you still believe that a teacher can walk into the classroom each day and not have spent hours preparing?

An educator's day does not begin with the morning bell and end with the dismissal bell.

Laura Concannon Hearn

Perry Hall

Irradiation won't kill all the germs

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