Carroll official to head city schools team

State appointee to oversee court-ordered overhaul of special-education system

August 23, 2005|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,SUN STAFF

A longtime Carroll County schools administrator will head a team of managers with far-reaching powers to overhaul the city school system's troubled special-education program.

State school officials announced yesterday that Harry T. Fogle, Carroll's assistant superintendent of school management and instruction, will lead a team of eight managers who will oversee transportation, guidance, human resources and other key departments in the city school system. Although a federal judge has told the state to limit the managers' efforts to special education, their powers will be broad because special-education cuts across many areas of the school system.

U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis, who oversees a 21-year-old special-education lawsuit, issued an emergency order Aug. 12 authorizing the state intervention, which is unprecedented in Maryland. He wrote that it represents "the only realistic hope that the special-education students in [Baltimore] will not, for yet another year, be deprived of what they need and are entitled to receive."

Fogle, 55, has overseen special education, curriculum and instruction, and student services in Carroll, a school system with 28,800 students. The Baltimore school system has 87,000 students, nearly 15,000 of whom receive special-education services. State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick said she will name the other eight administrators this week or early next week.

An educator for 33 years, Fogle does not have experience working in an urban school system. State officials said the key components of a good special-education program - transporting students to school, giving them the services they need and making sure they have access to a high-quality curriculum - are the same everywhere.

City schools officials have characterized the state intervention as a takeover, but Grasmick vehemently disputes that characterization. Grasmick emphasized at a news conference yesterday that Fogle's mission is to work with city schools administrators and help them to build the capacity to operate themselves. She said she would love to see the managers able to end the five-year intervention early.

School system spokeswoman Edie House said schools Chief Executive Officer Bonnie S. Copeland met with Fogle briefly yesterday and looks forward to working with him. City schools officials have said they will comply with Garbis' order even though they are disappointed by it.

In announcing Fogle's appointment, Grasmick said she had been looking for someone who understands administration, instruction and special education.

"This is a person who not only understands central office administration, but how it translates to real schools and real children every single day," she said of Fogle.

The major problem with special education in the city that led Garbis to order state intervention was a repeated failure to provide disabled students with the speech therapy, counseling and other services to which they are legally entitled.

Lawyers for the Maryland Disability Law Center, which sued the city and the state in 1984 on behalf of special-education students and had asked Garbis this summer to order a more drastic intervention, said they are encouraged by Fogle's appointment.

"He's a person you can have a conversation with, a person you can work with, because he cares about kids," said Leslie Seid Margolis, an attorney who has worked with Fogle on statewide special-education committees. "How that will translate in Baltimore City, which is a very different place than Carroll County, I don't know, but our history has been a pretty good one. ... I find him refreshingly honest."

Grasmick said she is looking to hire administrators from other Maryland school systems. She said superintendents around the state have been "incredibly cooperative" in agreeing to give up top administrators so close to the beginning of the new school year.

Fogle said he is excited and nervous about his new job, which he officially begins Monday, the first day of school. He will earn $165,000 a year plus benefits, less than the $170,000 the state said in court papers it would pay the lead administrator.

Fogle said he plans to move to Baltimore by mid-September from Hagerstown, where he and his wife moved a few months ago as they planned to ease into retirement. He said he decided to change course when Grasmick approached him last week because "I really believe that the children of Baltimore City deserve more than they've gotten in the past."

Fogle said he will have an open-door policy for parents with concerns, and will make himself accessible by phone. He also said he hopes to have a collaborative relationship with city school staff, although he cautioned, "I do not accept excuses when children don't learn."

He continued: "If I mess up, and I probably will, I'll be the first to say I did. I won't blame it on someone else."

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