One of city schools chief Bonnie S. Copeland's favorite sayings is that it takes a village to raise a child.
Since Copeland took over the financially troubled school system nearly two years ago, she has persuaded many of Baltimore's business and community leaders to adopt that well-known African proverb as their mantra, too.
FOR THE RECORD - A listing of donations accompanying an article in Monday's editions of The Sun about philanthropic giving to the city schools incorrectly spelled the name of Herbert B. Mittenthal.
The Sun regrets the errors.
The number of donors of supplies and services to the city schools has surged during Copeland's tenure. Her office has recorded at least 100 new or revived partnerships, including some with companies based outside of Maryland.
There are several likely reasons for the upward trend, including publicity surrounding the system's financial troubles, a recent campaign by Mayor Martin O'Malley to enlist volunteers to work in schools and - perhaps most significantly - Copeland's long-standing relationships with influential civic and business leaders.
Unlike the series of out-of-town educators who swept into Baltimore to take on the system's top job and left after a couple of years, Copeland is seen as a hometown pick committed to the city, say many in the education and business community.
"I think Bonnie does bring with her enormous credibility because she is local, and people know her and love her," said C. William Struever, a former school board member whose development company has renovated schools for free.
Besides the unofficial count kept by Copeland's staff, the mayor's office said more than 150 companies, community groups and government agencies pitched in last summer to renovate and freshen up schools across Baltimore. The list included expected names - the Abell Foundation, Morgan State University - and some less expected ones, such as Taco Fiesta restaurant and Harview Roofing Co.
"There's a completely different atmosphere of collaboration that I think is a very healthy sign for Baltimore public schools," said Lisa Akchin, a public relations expert at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and an informal adviser to Copeland.
Deb Silcox, who oversees community partnerships for the system, said she fields calls every day from individuals or groups offering assistance, many of whom say they have heard about the system's financial troubles.
A Los Angeles-based publisher offered to forgive a payment of $2,200 for sheet music ordered by the system. Herbert B. Mittenthal, a real estate developer in Owings Mills, donated $10,000 to his alma mater, Arlington Elementary School. "I was looking for a place to put it that would not regularly get a boost like this," Mittenthal said.
And when it came time for the Rotary Club of Baltimore to choose a service project to commemorate Rotary International's centennial this year, its members decided to build a reading room at Cherry Hill Elementary.
"As we looked around, we saw there was plenty to be done in the school system because of their financial situation," said Danny Bands, the club's president.
Silcox said she is putting together a brochure that will describe what it means to "adopt" a school, an expression that she says organizations use too freely, even when they just drop off a one-time load of school supplies.
She said the central administration needs to increase its oversight of philanthropic giving to make sure schools don't get left out. Schools near downtown or other busy areas generally get the most attention, while other schools - in East Baltimore, for example - get few donors, she said.
The mayor's school renovation initiative, Believe in Our Schools, has been another cause of the rise in partnerships. Not only did it marshal more than 5,700 volunteers to paint and scrub city schools this summer, but it also resulted in people making long-term commitments to individual schools.
Employees of CitiFinancial Corp. stayed involved even after the summer campaign ended. "We still have people out in the schools, doing stuff on weekends," said Pat Robbins, the company's community relations director.
A few regular donors such as CitiFinancial have stepped up contributions since the financial crisis. The company spent more than $700,000 on scholarships, volunteer time and computer donations in 2004, twice the amount it spent on schools in previous years.
Other organizations and individuals have become involved because of Copeland, an Ohio native who planted roots in this region's education community in the late 1970s.
A former administrator with the Baltimore County schools and at the State Department of Education, she later served on the Baltimore City school board and headed the Fund for Educational Excellence, a nonprofit dedicated to education reform in the city.
The city's previous three schools chiefs - Robert E. Schiller, Robert Booker and Carmen V. Russo - came to Baltimore without having previously worked here.
A number of examples illustrate the benefits of Copeland's local roots.