Negotiations continue for pact to run city school

March 06, 2001|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

City and state education officials are continuing to negotiate a contract that would put southern Baltimore's troubled Westport Elementary and Middle School under the management of a small New York-based company beginning this summer.

Carmen V. Russo, chief executive officer for city schools, had sought the state's approval last week to enter into a contract with Victory Schools, but the state education board did not immediately sign off on the agreement.

"We're still involved in discussions with the city," Ronald A. Peiffer, an assistant state superintendent, said yesterday.

J. Tyson Tildon, chairman of the Baltimore school board, said he was surprised that the state board didn't approve the contract - worth $4.1 million annually for three years - last week, as city school officials had expected.

But, he said, "There are considerations that the state has that must be incorporated into our contractual arrangement with Victory. It's now in the hands of Carmen and the people at Victory to work out an agreement that is acceptable to the state."

Margaret R. Harrington, Victory's chief operating officer, could not be reached yesterday.

Victory, which was founded in 1999, operates three schools, all in New York. The state board approved in January a proposal by Russo under which she would assume responsibility for hiring an outside company to reform Westport, which has been on the state's failing list since 1997. The state had been considering hiring an independent operator, as it did with three failing city elementaries last year.

Peiffer said state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick has reported "making some progress" in the negotiations, but that "it may be a little while before we have anything to report."

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