Institute ends bid to manage schools

Kennedy Krieger said it is willing to offer expertise if requested

February 05, 2000|By JoAnna Daemmrich and Eric Siegel | JoAnna Daemmrich and Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

The Kennedy Krieger Institute has dropped out of the running to manage one or more of three underachieving Baltimore elementary schools that were taken over by the state this week.

Kennedy Krieger, renowned for its care of, and research with, disabled children and teen-agers, said in a statement yesterday that it had decided to withdraw because none of the three schools was in East Baltimore, where the institute has been located for nearly 40 years.

The withdrawal by Kennedy Krieger, which had proposed a partnership with a nonprofit foundation set up by local retirement home developer John C. Erickson, leaves two out-of-town, for-profit companies vying to manage the schools: Edison Schools Inc. and Mosaica Education Inc., both headquartered in New York.

State education officials acknowledged that Kennedy Krieger's decision -- announced just three days after the first takeover of individual schools in Maryland history -- limited their choices. But they said they had faith in the capabilities of Edison, which operates 79 schools in 17 states and Washington, and Mosaica, which manages eight schools in three states.

"We have a high-level of confidence in the vendors that are remaining," said Ronald A. Peiffer, an assistant state schools superintendent.

Peiffer said the state could not solicit proposals from another group to replace that of Kennedy Krieger because of state bidding regulations.

On Tuesday, the state board voted to take control of Gilmor and Furman L. Templeton elementary schools in West Baltimore, and Montebello Elementary School in Northeast. Fewer than 10 percent of third-graders at the schools achieved satisfactory scores on the most recent state tests.

Under the takeover, the schools will continue to be run by the city until July 1, when they will be handed over to an outside manager, which will hire principals, teachers and staff.

State officials say they would prefer to divide the three schools among the remaining vendors, but acknowledge that either Edison or Mosaica could wind up running all of them.

In its statement yesterday, Kennedy Krieger, which operates a private high school and a private lower/middle school in the city for children with special needs , said it would be willing to act as a special education consultant for the manager of the schools.

"We are uniquely qualified to act in this capacity," said Gary Goldstein, president of Kennedy Krieger. "If our help is requested, we are interested in communicating our expertise."

Kennedy Krieger, in the 700 block of North Broadway adjacent to the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, said managing a school in East Baltimore would have made sense because of the relationships it has built up with neighborhood groups over the years.

"When we originally submitted the proposal, we specified we wanted to work with schools in East Baltimore," said Wendy Odell Magus, a Kennedy Krieger spokeswoman. "We have an established relationship with community leaders in the area. When the schools were identified and didn't fall into that geographic area, we had to think hard and evaluate that. It wasn't the right fit."

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