Teacher's plight inspires parable Resignation: Mary Pat Clarke, former City Council president, weaves a yarn retelling the plight of an educator.

The Education Beat

December 28, 1997|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

HERE'S ANOTHER WAY of looking at the Sharon Weber case -- looking from the outside in.

Weber is the former Baltimore kindergarten teacher who left her job at Dallas F. Nicholas Sr. Elementary School after working one day last fall. Weber said her classroom lacked such basic necessities as books.

Ever vigilant, particularly when it comes to the hiring of teachers, city school officials pursued Weber after they learned she'd taken a teaching job in Baltimore County. They asked the state to suspend her license. Rather than work with that action hanging over her head, Weber told Sun reporter Howard Libit, she resigned the county job this month.

All of which inspired a parable, created by Mary Pat Clarke, former City Council president and current part-time English teacher at the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. To understand the parable, you have to know that Nicholas Elementary is across 21st Street from city school headquarters on North Avenue.

You also need to know that Nicholas, which replaced Cromwell Elementary in 1976, was one of several schools built in the 1970s without windows. The idea was that these buildings would be less expensive to maintain and secure, while students wouldn't be distracted by gazing outside. The result -- seen also at Walbrook and Southwestern high schools, both built in 1971 -- is an ugly, fortresslike structure.

In Clarke's parable, the villagers watched as the king built a castle next door to the windowless school. (Actually it was the queen -- the late Alice Pinderhughes, superintendent through much of the 1980s, but we will not quibble.)

The villagers, however, couldn't see that the sovereigns, over many years, had provided the windowless school few coins for books and supplies.

"And so the years went by inside the school with no windows. Until one day, a teacher cut a window" and escaped.

"The king called all his men together and set off in pursuit of this teacher, to punish her for damaging the wall between the children and his castle. But when they went out, they saw all the children watching. And they found themselves watching back.

"As quietly as evening snow, more and more people joined the king's men to look in, until even the king could not ride through the crowd on his yuletide visits."

Eventually, the king tried to fill in the hole himself. He climbed from his horse and began stacking bricks in the hole left by the teacher. "But the more he stacked, the bigger the hole grew, until the whole kingdom could see in and feel ashamed of children without so much as a Crayon."

The moral: "Teachers cut holes so kings will buy Crayons."

Fund-raising attempt gets an A for effort

Bryan Zervos' idea hasn't paid off, but he gets an A for effort.

Zervos, director of advancement at Columbia Union College in Takoma Park, is trying to raise $150,000 to put his college online with four others (Mount St. Mary's, Hood, Loyola and the College of Notre Dame of Maryland) in an academic library consortium.

Zervos is well-aware that it's been a good year for investors, recent Wall Street slumps notwithstanding. "There's people out there with money to spend for tax purposes before the end of the year," said Zervos, "so I figured I'd see if I could tap into them. Why not? It's worth a try."

So Zervos purchased an ad in the Wall Street Journal seeking "benevolent donor(s) to support a (tax-deductible) library automation campaign." The one-column-wide, 1-inch-deep ad asked interested parties to call "Bryan" at an 800 number. It ran for four days in mid-December and cost Zervos about $600.

Alas, he said last week, it drew only two responses, one from the ever-vigilant Education Beat.

"I'm working on the other one," Zervos said.

Such unabashed soliciting in higher education isn't unheard of, but it's unusual. And there is only a matter of degree between "cultivation" of wealthy alumni, a common practice by campus fund-raisers, and solicitation in a blind newspaper ad.

Meanwhile, Columbia Union, an affiliate of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, is appealing a federal judge's denial of its petition to share in the Maryland state aid program for private colleges and universities.

Judge Marvin J. Garbis ruled in October that the Montgomery County college's operations were too closely intertwined with the religious denomination to be free of the First Amendment prohibition against the use of state funds for church activities.

This year, Columbia Union would have received about $750,000 of the $31 million appropriated under the Father Sellinger Program, named for the late president of Loyola College of Maryland, Joseph Sellinger.

Many states cut higher-education spending

Factoid of the week: The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) recently calculated the change in state spending on higher education in the 15 Southern and Border states between 1987 and 1997.

Adjusted for inflation, appropriations declined over the decade in every state but Oklahoma, but Maryland fared relatively well. Spending here declined 2 percent, compared with an average xTC decline of 16 percent in the SREB region.

But Maryland community colleges took a real hit. Adjusted for inflation, spending on the state's two-year schools declined 30 percent. The SREB average decline was 20 percent.

Pub Date: 12/28/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.