Union makes late bid for 3 failing schools

Teachers propose plan for elementaries, but state is `far along' in takeover

February 23, 2000|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

Three weeks after the state took over three failing Baltimore elementary schools, the teachers union had this message: Give them back. We have a better plan.

Baltimore Teachers Union President Marietta English told the Maryland State Board of Education yesterday that turning the schools over to private companies with mixed records of success had not worked in the city before.

"We believe it is wrong to try to hand off our problems to a nonpublic, for-profit entity without first exhausting our own remedies," English said.

Two companies, Mosaica Education Inc. and Edison Schools Inc., both of New York, are finalists to run three schools -- Gilmor and Furman L. Templeton in West Baltimore and Montebello in Northeast Baltimore. All three have at least a four-year history of academic problems.

The teachers' plan, coming months after the state board announced its intention to contract out the management of some of the city's worst schools, is unlikely to gain much support.

"I applaud the creativity and effort, but I think we are far along in this process," said state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick.

Working with the American Federation of Teachers, the BTU identified teaching practices across the country that research shows have helped to turn around problem schools.

Its plan calls for requiring 40 minutes of teacher training before school every morning, hiring only experienced and certified teachers, and making students who are falling behind attend summer school. It suggests that the school system provide transportation for students who move to another part of the city in the middle of the school year.

It also details a number of practices that the city school board is proposing or has already adopted -- such as smaller class sizes in the lower grades.

The plan calls for the three schools to continue to use the same math and reading textbooks and curricula, which are new and apparently well liked by teachers.

The union would like to see the schools wired for computers and to see teachers better trained in how to use technology.

Grasmick questioned the lack of details in the union's plan, saying it contained no specifics on how to operate a school and had no accountability measures.

Grasmick also said that the proposal appears to require more money -- essentially taking funding from other city schools.

Sun staff writer Howard Libit contributed to this article.

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