State's takeover of failing city schools is wholly...


February 27, 2000

State's takeover of failing city schools is wholly appropriate

The Sun recently published an article on city legislators reaction to the takeover of three poor-performing Baltimore public schools (Takeover of 3 schools questioned, Feb. 3).

We can assure The Sun the reservations expressed by the lawmakers in the article are shared by few.

Last December, more than a month before the State Board of Education made its landmark decision, we sent a letter to the board urging members to remain true to the ideals set forth a decade ago in Marylands ambitious school reform agenda, and to intervene in poorly performing schools that have shown no progress toward meeting state standards.

The innovative work of state Superintendent of Schools Nancy N. Grasmick and the Department of Education has yielded improvements in many of our poorest-performing schools, proving that wealth and race dont necessarily forecast academic success or failure.

The dramatic turnaround we have seen at many of these schools proves to us that the two-year-old city-state partnership is largely working as intended.

But for those schools not reaping the benefits of reform, more direct state involvement is absolutely necessary.

While we understand the challenges associated with this unprecedented move, we applaud Dr. Grasmick and the state board for their courage in standing up for our children.

We believe that only by taking this next step can Maryland fulfill its promise to provide a rigorous, high-quality education for all students.

It is clear to us, and to most legislators, that we cannot let fear and politics paralyze us -- not when time is running out on some of our most vulnerable children.

Barbara A. Hoffman

Howard P. Rawlings


Senator Hoffman chairs the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. Delegate Rawlings chairs the House Appropriations Committee.

Dont miss shining stars among citys public schools

I write to commend Jamie Stiehms article, Signs of excellence among city students (Feb. 16). So much media attention is devoted to poor school achievement that the public forgets there are shining stars in the citys public schools.

The Polytechnic Institutes and City High Schools test scores, for instance, rival those of private and public county high schools and many city elementary and middle schools score as well on MSPAP tests as county public schools, despite a lack of materials and poor facilities.

The citys New Schools Initiative has also turned some failing public schools into quality institutions and opened several excellent elementary schools.

Baltimores public schools also are staffed with dedicated teachers who do not get the recognition they deserve. Their morale is low and their bad press does nothing to help.

Teachers are too often held accountable for poor performance, when lack of parental involvement and poor school funding are the real issues.

People dont choose to teach in the city if they are not dedicated to teaching; the job is too hard and under-appreciated.

Quality public education is democratic; it is a right not a privilege.

Parents need to invest in public education, demand more from elected officials, lobby for more funding, and not give up on the only way to ensure real democracy.

Not only can students get quality education in the citys public school system, they also get an education in diversity.

Good things can be found in the city schools if you look.

Alex Burrell Rohde


Should the city celebrate Abraham Lincolns birthday?

The Suns article Voting against Lincoln holiday (Feb. 11) disputed the local observance of Abraham Lincolns birthday because of his actions involving Baltimore at the beginning of the Civil War in April 1861.

Will the assault on our few remaining heroes ever stop? It always irks me when we criticize the actions of past leaders with the benefit of hindsight.

Perhaps if we attempted to understand the context of the events that led to Lincolns actions here during those times, when the country was on the verge of total disintegration, his actions would be viewed more sympathetically.

Lincoln did what he had to do to save the country -- and he was both correct and courageous in doing so.

I can only imagine how history would view him if he had not taken the actions he did. Maryland could have easily seceded from the Union, leaving the nations capital surrounded by the Confederacy, and thereby forced to sue for peace.

Forget the Lincoln penny: We would all be using Confederate money.

Joseph M. Coale


Even to a casual observer of history, President Lincolns impact is evident.

I have been a direct beneficiary of President Lincolns integrity and courage, for members of my family were slaves in both Maryland and Virginia. I am of the belief that overall Abraham Lincoln was the best president this country has ever had.

But the irony is apparent: Why would a city put under martial law by President Lincoln honor him with a holiday?

Maybe therein lies a testament to what Lincoln meant to the country: That despite what occurred in Baltimore during the Civil War, we recognize this great man so much that we still honor him with a holiday. Even Lincoln would be surprised.

Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr.


The writer represents the 4th District on Baltimores City Council.

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