The Baltimore school board last night approved allowing Barclay Elementary-Middle School to become an independently run public school next academic year but rejected the same arrangement for Mount Washington Elementary.
Both had sought to become part of the school district's New Schools initiative, which provides schools with public funding but offers more flexibility in everything from determining curriculum to hiring teachers.
Education chief Carmen V. Russo said the proposal by the Baltimore Curriculum Project to run Barclay presented a "wonderful opportunity" with a "very strong chance for success."
The nonprofit Baltimore Curriculum Project, which is affiliated with the Abell Foundation, operates one New School, City Springs Elementary, which posted strong gains on national reading and math tests this year, Russo said.
Russo raised two concerns in recommending that the board reject a proposal that would have allowed Mount Washington's parent-teacher organization to run that school, considered one of the system's best.
She said it was "doubtful" that the building could be converted into one serving pupils in kindergarten through eighth grade - a move parents and community activists favored.
Russo also said she felt uncomfortable turning over the operation of a school to a group with no educational track record.
"I have very serious concerns about allowing [parent-teacher organizations] to become a management group," she said.
Mount Washington had plans for an extended day, more professional development for teachers and a gifted-and-talented program.
School activists said that converting Mount Washington to a New School with a more rigorous K-8 program would be one way to prevent middle-class families from leaving the public school system.