School raises memo doesn't add up

Stolen document sent out

it was only official's notes

July 06, 2004|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

Given the Baltimore school system's penchant for making politically unpopular decisions, the memo that circulated around school headquarters seemed believable.

Written by Chief Academic Officer Linda Chinnia, the document proposed a reorganization of top officials that included $20,000 raises for six area academic officers, paid for by cuts in other areas.

But it turned out the document wasn't a serious proposal - and didn't represent Chinnia's vision for the system administration.

Instead, Chinnia insists the document was simply a list of brainstorming ideas she had gathered and put together as notes on her computer.

"I have assured everyone there are no raises. There will be no raises," she said.

The document, dated June 3, 2003, was stolen from Chinnia's fourth-floor office desk by someone in the building, she said.

She reported the theft to the police, but she said no one has been caught.

Chinnia, who is one of the system's top three officials, said someone copied the stolen document and mailed it anonymously to many people in the system.

"It traveled throughout the school community," said Michael Hamilton, president of the Baltimore City Council of PTAs, and people were upset.

The possibility of hefty raises for top officials drew particular outrage after the school system's well-documented financial woes, which required a bailout loan from the city government and hundreds of layoffs.

"It is a question of whether it would have been fair to individuals who were laid off during this crisis time," Hamilton said.

If there were any additional funds, Hamilton said, they should be spent on programs for children.

To try to stop the rumor, Chinnia immediately wrote a letter - distributed to some staff - to say the document was stolen and to emphasize that no top officials are getting raises.

Chinnia acknowledged that the school system is considering a reorganization and said the document was assembled from ideas proposed by her area academic officers in preparation for a meeting.

She then roughed out an agenda for the meeting combining all those ideas, she said. "It was notes based on people brainstorming. ... I was preparing to go into a meeting to say what of these ideas is feasible," she said.

The document suggested that 12 positions be eliminated for savings of $800,000. The money would be reallocated to pay for three elementary school lead coaches who would make $90,000 each.

The document also suggests the academic officers would get the $20,000 raises and their eight assistants would get a $10,000 raise.

The raises and new coaches' positions would cost $470,000 - which Chinnia said she would not have supported, given the system's deficit.

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