IT TOOK ONLY a few seconds for Michael Plitt, principal of West Baltimore's renowned Carver Vocational-Technical High School, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Rep. Robert Ehrlich to realize they were from the same neighborhood.
"He grew up around the corner from me!" a surprised Ehrlich beamed after Plitt told the congressman the street he grew up on in Arbutus.
"Three blocks down and around the corner," Plitt added, to be precise.
Plitt would go on to Cardinal Gibbons High School and embark on an education career that landed him the principal's job at Carver. Ehrlich would press on to the Gilman School and become a congressman.
Ehrlich had shown up at Carver about 1 p.m. yesterday, just in time for his appointment with Del. Tony Fulton of the 40th District, Plitt, school staffers, alumni and parents. The candidate reminisced briefly about his past visits to the school, when his Gilman football, basketball and baseball teams went there for Maryland Scholastic Association contests.
Well, not baseball.
"I remember Carver played its home baseball games in Druid Hill Park," Ehrlich recalled.
But it wasn't athletics that brought him to Carver on this last day of the school year. It was Fulton, the West Baltimore Democrat who said he has been fighting for eight years to get someone, anyone, in Annapolis to find the bucks for some much needed renovations at Carver.
"To no avail," Fulton said.
None? Not even from the regime - er, uh, administration - of one Gov. Parris Spendening (whoops, Glendening) and that whiz kid of a lieutenant governor of his, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Kennedy Townsend?
Not even, said Fulton. He said he even tried to get the lieutenant governor to take the tour with Ehrlich.
"I was bipartisan about it," Fulton said of the invitation. The delegate said the KKT folks told him they may be able to visit Carver in September.
Townsend spokesman Mike Morrill confirmed the Fulton invitation, and added that state funding for Baltimore schools increased under Glendening and the lieutenant governor.
"There's only one candidate who has any record at all of supporting education in Baltimore," Morrill said, "and it's the lieutenant governor."
That support, Fulton contends, hasn't reached schools like Carver.
"You go through schools in our district here in West Baltimore," Fulton said, "and it's obvious they suffer from benign neglect."
Walk through Carver, as Ehrlich and Fulton did, and it's obvious the neglect is not so benign. It's downright criminal. Tiles routinely fall from the gym ceiling. The auditorium has poor lighting. No water flows from hallway fountains, the heat comes and goes and the plumbing is shot.
There is no water in the shower of the boys' locker room. Even if the guys could shower, they'd have to do it in the dark. There are no lights there, either. Many of the school's doors don't close and many of Carver's vocational facilities aren't up to date.
"[The facilities] don't afford our kids an opportunity to compete," Fulton said.
"It looks the same way now that it did then," said Chequita Lanier of her alma mater. Lanier is a 1977 Carver grad who was in the school's now-defunct nursing program. She was part of the walk-through group.
Georgiana Johnson, vice president of Carver's PTA, said her daughter, a 2002 graduate, hadn't been in the school's pool in four years. That's because the pool has been out of service for 10 years.
There's no kind way to say this, so let's use the pedagogical analogy. When it comes to Carver, we've flunked. I'm referring to the adults, the ones who pay the taxes and are supposed to make sure that situations like the one at Carver don't exist. We know these conditions exist and still vote into power every election year the party - and let's not hesitate to make the Democrats wince - that perpetuates this nonsense.
We've failed them, and Carver's students still do well. The awards several Carver students won in debating and vocational skills appeared in this space recently. The vast majority of Carver students go to school and do the work. You won't find the hallway crap games and dope peddling and usage that have characterized the soon-to-be defunct - and deservedly so - Northern High School.
"This is not a school in crisis," Plitt said. "We graduate 95 percent of our students. It's like we're being punished for success."