Pounding the pavement for school repair money

August 24, 2005|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,SUN STAFF

An assistant principal sent city school officials scrambling yesterday after he jogged around the city to publicize problems at a Northeast Baltimore middle school.

David Heiber, who is assigned to Thurgood Marshall Middle School, started his run at 6 a.m. at school system headquarters on North Avenue. He ran to eight middle schools, a distance he estimated at 13 miles, and pleaded for money at each school.

Helber said the school system had failed to fix serious deficiencies at Thurgood Marshall so he needed donations to pay for repairs before school opens Monday. Exposed electrical sockets, broken furniture, and missing windows and doors were among the problems Heiber noted.

"Lord knows, if we're in that position, how many other schools are," he said. "The building is atrocious."

Heiber, who was named assistant principal this summer, said he received pledges yesterday but hadn't tallied them.

City school officials said they were baffled by Heiber's run. They concede that the school has cosmetic problems but nothing serious enough to prevent it from opening on schedule.

Peggy Jackson-Jobe, the school system's area academic officer for middle schools, said she visited Thurgood Marshall Middle yesterday morning. "They're about 96 percent ready to open," she said. "There are only a few minor things to do, but the school is ready."

She said Heiber is welcome to raise money for things that are above and beyond what the system provides.

"He wants blinds, miniblinds, for each of the classrooms," she said. "He says to do that, it would cost about $15,000. ... That's more or less a frill."

She said one of the school system's "blitz teams" - including an electrician and a carpenter - would work on the remaining repairs and a grounds crew would mow before school starts.

Jackson-Jobe said the blitz team had worked at the school this summer. A few weeks ago, parents and volunteers from Mayor Martin O'Malley's "Believe" team painted, she added.

Heiber told a different story. He said conditions are so bad that he would not allow his 6-year-old son to attend the school if he were old enough.

"It's not the lack of effort or lack of ingenuity," he said. "We're just not given the resources.

Heiber said he had donated $1,000 of his own money to make repairs and he would continue to crusade until the problems were fixed.

"I'll go until the money's raised. If that means 200 miles, I'll jog, I'll walk, I'll crawl 200 miles," he said. "People are making hundreds of thousands a year and our buildings can't be fixed."

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