Perspiration, extermination, inspiration

BETWEEN THE LINES

August 22, 2005

Stifling heat. Cockroaches. Politics. What a welcome for new teachers joining the beleaguered Baltimore City public school system. But there they were last Monday, hundreds of rookie educators crowded into Patterson High School's sultry auditorium. The first lesson of their orientation week: The air conditioning doesn't always work. As the teachers furiously fanned themselves with their programs, seven floor fans lined the front of the stage, blowing weakly on the front row of dignitaries, which included Mayor Martin O'Malley, schools chief Bonnie S. Copeland, and school board Chairman Brian Morris.

There were also two uninvited guests demanding attention: roaches. Gary Thrift, director of human resources for the school system, promptly took control of the situation and stomped (after a miss) on the unsightly intruders.

Then O'Malley, Copeland and Morris all told the teachers to ignore the political battles between state and city officials over control of city schools. Despite all the distractions, the teachers stayed upbeat and responded well to the plea of Morris, a city schools graduate himself.

"Do for my son what your predecessors did for me," Morris said.

- Doug Donovan

Unreality television

Cutting into The People's Court, WMAR-TV's newscasters began breathlessly reporting a harrowing scene supposedly unfolding in South Baltimore: a bank robbery in progress, a police officer shot, civilians possibly wounded.

But the brazen bank robbery that WMAR was reporting turned out to be nothing more than a city Police Department training exercise. Within a few minutes of breaking into the morning legal show to report the details, newscasters informed viewers that it was not a real bank robbery.

How did this happen? Agent Donny Moses, a police spokesman, said that a WMAR news employee called him Thursday morning after hearing the training exercise unfold on the police scanner. Moses said he wasn't aware of such an incident and immediately placed calls to check it out.

Meantime, a miscommunication among staffers in WMAR's newsroom led them to believe they had confirmed that the robbery was happening, according to Drew Berry, the station's vice president and general manager. Berry said they were broadcasting for less than two minutes before they got word it was a training exercise, and then apologized to their viewers.

The station then quickly cut back to its regular programming. And viewers, thankfully, got to see the rest of The People's Court.

- Gus G. Sentementes and Jo Parker

Cleaning up this town

No telling how many cars had passed the bag of trash whose contents were sprawled along the median strip of Roland Avenue just north of Northern Parkway Aug. 14 before the big, late-model sedan pulled to a halt. Emerging into the hot steamy afternoon air was a middle-aged man in shorts who bent down and began cleaning up the mess.

A closer look showed it to be none other than Robert Embry, head of the Abell Foundation, demonstrating in a very concrete, low-key way what it means to care about your city.

- Michael Hill

Official trespasser

Members of the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission will often visit a property scheduled to come before them for a decision. More often than not, those properties are vacant, undeveloped parcels, where members can wander undisturbed with their maps and building proposals.

When the board discussed a site plan for a new private school to built on a one-time farm, members were told the school secretary already lives in the old farmhouse and will serve as a caretaker. One planning commissioner apparently was unaware of that provision, when he stopped by the site on his way to the 9 a.m. planning meeting.

"If she tells you there was a car on the property early this morning and a man looking around, I want you to know it was me," said Wayne B. Schuster.

The commission unanimously approved the school plan.

- Mary Gail Hare

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