O'Malley invites group to plug in schools

Business leaders asked to help buy computers

March 29, 2000|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF

Mayor Martin O'Malley gave the crowd time to enjoy their dessert before getting straight to the point: a contribution of $2,000 will buy one personal computer with software and a printer for a Baltimore public school; $5,500 will buy three; on and on, up to $50,000 for 30 computers to serve a population that might otherwise never get a chance to use one.

"Let's bring our classrooms online -- now," O'Malley said yesterday to a gathering of the Young Presidents Organization, a club of business owners and chief executive officers under the age of 50. "Not in five years. Not by waiting for someone else to do it."

O'Malley was pitching to several dozen local members of the international organization at a dinner in the library of Roland Park Elementary School. His goal is to raise $4 million by September to bring classrooms in 11 city schools completely online before the 2000-2001 school year begins.

The contributions will be managed by the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education, with administrative costs covered by the group and, according to O'Malley, each dollar going directly for computer purchases.

The mayor had reason to believe that the crowd would be receptive, because the business leaders had spent the day play-acting as principals in city schools for a look at urban education.

"He's striking while the iron is hot, after they've been in the schools and have made statements that they're committed to making them better," said Steve Kearney, policy researcher for the O'Malley administration. "He's asking them to step up and finish the job."

In addition to money, O'Malley asked the executives to donate computers when they upgrade their systems; to volunteer with Tech Corps Maryland, which brings specialists into classrooms to integrate technology with teaching; to pay for city teachers to attend technology training; and to talk to high school freshmen about school success paying off in the workplace.

Peter Bowe, the president of a company that makes dredging equipment in Pigtown, spent the day at the city's Detention Center School for juveniles charged as adults with violent crime.

"Every principal I've talked to this evening says it has to be about jobs," said Bowe. "The comment that stuck with me is that we are going to be a society of educated people and unemployed people."

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