Between The Lines

BETWEEN THE LINES

March 01, 2004

School ranking slip-up

Last week, Forbes.com yanked Baltimore and Atlanta from its list of "The Best Education in the Biggest Cities" after discovering that the Baltimore County and Cobb County, Ga., school systems do not actually serve the cities of Baltimore and Atlanta.

Using high school graduation rates, median home prices and available educational resources, the study ranked Boston, Salt Lake City, Raleigh, N.C., and Baltimore as the top four big cities for education. Atlanta came in at No. 7, while Charlotte, N.C., squeaked by at No. 9.

After a Sun reporter inquired about Baltimore's placement, the online magazine realized its mistake and modified the list. In turn, Baltimore County school officials retracted a self-congratulatory news release and issued a new one assuring the public they have nothing to be embarrassed about.

In Charlotte, officials at Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools changed the news release posted on their Web site to reflect their ascent from No. 9 to No. 7. They did not, however, change a reference to the Forbes.com "top 10" list. In fact, there is now only a top eight.

- Sara Neufeld

Call off dinner and movie

Porn king Larry Flynt said he was trying to bring more class to The Block with the opening of his Hustler Club in November.

Lately, he's trying to bring something else to that section of downtown: girlfriends and wives.

"Swinger Wednesdays," the club's lighted marquee advertises. "Couples get in free."

- Laura Vozzella

Mayor Skywalker

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s staff has mocked Mayor Martin O'Malley for his constant fiddling with his hand-held personal digital assistant.

But O'Malley thinks that his rivals secretly fear his portable e-mail device.

"This is my BlackBerry," O'Malley said recently, whipping out his palm-sized black machine during an interview at The Sun.

"The Ehrlich people think it's a light saber that makes government run. They fear it when it's near them, because they know the force is with me."

- Tom Pelton

So much to say

It could have been a contender.

The agenda for last week's Baltimore County Council work session was the skimpiest in years, and, because the chairman was out of town, the reins went to Republican T. Bryan McIntire, who set a land speed record the last time he ran a meeting: in and out in six minutes.

All was going well for a speedy adjournment until a bill about landfill regulations came up. There was one speaker signed up to address the issue: former Secretary of State John T. Willis. It was then McIntire made his mistake.

"I don't believe we've ever had a former secretary of state before," McIntire said. "Mr. Willis, you may have three minutes instead of our customary two."

Give them a minute, they take a half-hour.

By the time Willis returned to his seat, McIntire was well past his previous mark. Final time: 35 minutes, three seconds.

- Andrew A. Green

Call family services

The city school system's financial crisis has been deemed various things recently: an emergency, a catastrophe, a fiasco. But Kevin A. Slayton, president of the system's Parent Community Advisory Board, said last week that the crisis is more analogous to a "dysfunctional family."

"You have the state sort of as father," Slayton said. "And the school system is the single mother with all these children, just trying her best."

Slayton said although the advisory board is grateful for the state's offer of financial assistance, the school system is too often treated like a "bastard child."

"Here comes the father when he feels like showing up to throw a little change at the situation," Slayton said. "But it still doesn't make [the family] whole."

- Tanika White

The name says it all

City leaders have had little luck pushing their own solutions for Baltimore's nearly insolvent school system as Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. took the lead.

But the City Council, which passed no fewer than four schools-related bills and resolutions last week, found a way to stand out. It came up with the plan with the most dramatic title.

City Council Resolution 04-1296, which called on Ehrlich to give the council and Mayor Martin O'Malley more oversight of the schools, carried the catchy name "The Maryland State and Baltimore City Partnership - a Journey Toward Redemption or the Road to Perdition?"

- Laura Vozzella

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