The SEED Foundation wants to bring to Baltimore a copy of its successful boarding school for children in challenging Washington neighborhoods. With support from the state as well as private organizations, the school could open in another two years, giving more Baltimore students a chance to succeed.
SEED's founders - one of whom is a former teacher at St. Paul's School in Baltimore County turned management consultant - work in urban areas to provide educational opportunities for under-served students. In 1998, they opened a public boarding school in an area of Washington that has a lot of subsidized housing and on a site where an elementary school had burned down. But with its stone buildings and grassy campus, the SEED school envelopes its 320 students in a protected atmosphere of support and stability, while keeping them connected to their families. The combination of rigorous academics and structured life skills has worked: Every student from the first two graduating classes has gone on to a four-year college, including some Ivy League schools.
For the past year, the foundation has been planning to help a similar population of Baltimore youths, working with state and city officials to establish a school that could be located within the city. Proposed legislation that will soon be introduced by State Sen. Paula Hollinger of Baltimore County outlines a governing structure under which the school would be regulated and financed largely by the state, with oversight by a board of directors drawn from a range of public and private entities.
City officials, particularly Mayor Martin O'Malley, are generally supportive, even though the new school would be somewhat like a charter school, luring students from more traditional public schools. But city and school officials recognize that round-the-clock support is an ideal model that could help many students at risk of dropping out.
The proposed school will require an initial outlay from the state of about $1.5 million to $2 million to help cover estimated tuition, room and board costs for the 50 to 80 students who could be enrolled for the first year. Mostly private sources would be tapped for the estimated $40 million to $50 million needed to secure a site and build the school.
But the ultimate potential gains - helping more students graduate and lead productive lives - make this a worthy investment.