Investment in students pays off for city couple

The Education Beat

Scholarships: Magdalene and Harold Fennell put up $3,100 in 1992 for 31 fifth-graders. That grew to $1,000 for each of the 22 students going to college.

June 16, 1999|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

FEW PEOPLE OF moderate means -- schoolteachers, for example -- become philanthropists.

But Baltimoreans Magdalene and Harold Fennell entered that category in 1992 when they invested $3,100 in one fifth-grade class at Hilton Elementary School.

The couple put up $100 for each of 31 students and promised they would turn any proceeds into college scholarships if the youngsters graduated from high school seven years later.

The other day, at a ceremony at Associated Black Charities, the Fennells distributed certificates worth $1,000 to each of the 22 Hilton students who graduated this spring.

About 50 members of the Hilton Education Club, their parents, siblings and friends attended the event. So did Elaine Davis, Hilton's principal in 1992, and Jean Sandifer, who still teaches fifth grade at the West Baltimore public school.

"There was a wonderful feeling about it," said Magdalene Fennell, 71, who was an English teacher and administrator in city schools for 30 years. Her husband, 75, is a retired city parks superintendent.

Augmenting the fund from time to time, the couple parlayed the original $3,100 into $25,000, then gave it away to keep a promise.

"It was worth it when we heard the students testifying to the effect the Hilton Education Club had on them," said Magdalene Fennell.

Dismal disparity between Baltimore City, Montgomery

Are Montgomery County and Baltimore City in the same state? You wouldn't know it from Advanced Placement figures released by the state Education Department.

The AP exams, as they're called, are for smart kids, the students who are going on to colleges and the professions. AP students are the leaders of tomorrow, the kids who aren't afraid to take the most demanding courses. Good results on the AP tests earn advanced college credit.

Now for those figures: In the 1997-1998 school year, there were but 218 AP candidates in all of Baltimore City and 3,525 in Montgomery.

In the city, 0.8 percent of high-schoolers took Advanced Placement courses, only a sprinkling of which were offered across city schools. In Montgomery, 10.8 percent engaged in advanced studies.

Wide gaps exist between the city and other suburban counties, but the Baltimore-Montgomery disparity was so glaring that state officials considered putting the figures on a shelf somewhere to save the city embarrassment.

When the statistics were made public, Montgomery, of course, put out a press release.

Another attempt to mend patchwork school finances

Here we go again.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening is about to appoint yet another commission to study Maryland's school finance formulas. Ordered by the General Assembly to look at the state's education spending patchwork, the commission is due to report by January, with an interim report due by the end of this year.

Matthew Joseph, policy director of the statewide advocacy organization Advocates for Children and Youth, says this time the goal won't be equal spending on every student.

Rather, he said, the goal will be a formula that guarantees an "adequate" education in each of the 24 districts.

Preliminary work is under way. James Guthrie, an authority on school finance, was in town recently to give his advice. Guthrie was a candidate for Baltimore City superintendent in the early 1970s.

The governor's first challenge is to find a chairman with a big name but no identification with a subdivision. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan's name has been floated, but we guess he has more important matters on his mind than wealth per student or average daily attendance in Dorchester County.

Marylanders' selections for college listed in report

Highlights from a Maryland Higher Education Commission report on where Maryland residents attend college:

The most popular school for undergraduate Maryland African-Americans isn't Morgan State University or another historically black college; it's Prince George's Community College.

By county of residence, Frederick and the three subdivisions of Southern Maryland (Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's) are the growth spots.

Over the past decade, enrollment of Baltimore County residents in higher education has declined by 3,000, about 8 percent. In the same period, 1,000 more Baltimore City residents are in college, an increase of 3 percent.

Pub Date: 6/16/99

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