School board is slow to start rescue plan Long-term blueprint due March 13 to legislature

January 09, 1998|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

With a deadline two months away, the Baltimore school board is just beginning to piece together a blueprint for rescuing the troubled city schools.

Interim school chief Robert Schiller has presented a 70-page list of strategies for the board to consider, but school board member Bonnie Copeland said the board has not reviewed Schiller's ideas, and is not inclined to release the list to the public.

Copeland said Schiller's proposals "are just thoughts at this point."

Sources have said the board will have to pick and choose among some contradictory strategies. Schiller tried to present a range of ideas that could be incorporated into the plan, some radical and some not.

Michael Hamilton, president of the board's Parent and Community Advisory Committee, said the board has gathered ideas from parents, teachers and principals.

He said he is concerned that the board put together a draft soon.

"There is a strong concern that there is not sufficient time to get a tangible reaction and have that put in the master plan," Hamilton said. "Our window is very short."

The board is expected to hold several forums next month to allow the public to express opinions on the plan.

Dates and places have not been set.

Last summer, when Schiller presented a transition plan for the first year to begin turning around a system he deemed "academically bankrupt," he discussed the plan openly before the board had taken action.

The transition plan, which was approved by the school board, put the biggest investment of new money and energy into elementary grades.

Hundreds of teachers were hired to reduce class size and improve reading in the early grades, and money was allocated for teacher training and after-school instruction.

One of Schiller's proposals includes giving some of the system's strongest elementary and middle school principals oversight over other schools. But board member C. William Struever said the proposal is only one of the ideas being offered.

The blueprint, called a master plan for the schools, is required by a state law passed in April by the General Assembly.

The legislature agreed to give the city school system a $254 million increase in state aid over five years, but required greater state oversight.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening appointed a new school board last spring. That board, made up almost entirely of new members, is required to present the legislature with a long-term master plan to improve the schools by March 13.

Copeland said the board will announce Tuesday a schedule for presenting the master plan to the public.

"We are trying to put together an agenda for public involvement," she said.

Pub Date: 1/09/98

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