State law requires administrators -- including assistant and associate superintendents or those in an "equivalent position" -- to be certified. But because the Baltimore school system uses business titles rather than education titles, state officials said they do not know if the city's top administrators are subject to that requirement. After inquiries from The Sun, they said they are researching the issue.
Asked if she was concerned about DeStefano's New York controversies when she hired him, Copeland replied: "I don't have a take on that situation."
She said she was "not particularly" worried that DeStefano lacked high school experience, "because we had seen the growth, particularly in the middle schools" he oversaw in New York.
As in Brooklyn's middle schools, the results of Baltimore's high school reform have been mixed. The graduation rate increased last year to its highest rate in a decade, 59 percent, but standardized test scores remain very low.
At some high schools with high graduation rates and low test scores, teachers have said that students who don't deserve diplomas are getting them anyway. DeStefano made waves in 2004 when he allowed failing high school students to retake their final exams. System officials said that practice has been discontinued.
That same year, the Baltimore school system entered into a two-year, $557,358 contract with the Institute for Learning, a think tank at the University of Pittsburgh. The Annie E. Casey Foundation paid $223,978 to cover the first year, and the system is paying $333,380 this school year. The purpose of the contract, officials said, is to work on principals' leadership development and literacy instruction in secondary schools.
The institute was founded in 1995 by Alvarado, the former New York chancellor, and Lauren Resnick, its current director. Though DeStefano has been associated with the group from its founding, and it did millions of dollars of work for New York City schools while he was there, he and institute officials said it was Copeland who negotiated the contract in Baltimore. DeStefano acknowledged, though, that "it didn't hurt that I've had a relationship with Lauren for years and years and years."
DeStefano's deputy superintendent in New York, Joanna Maccario, now works for the institute. Though DeStefano does not directly benefit from the city's contract, it does include $20,358 for him to travel to and from Pittsburgh for training, and it specifies that Maccario is the institute's liaison with the school system.
DeStefano and institute officials downplay the significance of a string of e-mails, obtained by The Sun through a Public Information Act request, in which it appears that Maccario was recommending Studio Course to DeStefano as a new language arts curriculum for city middle schools.
Studio's founder, Sally Mentor Hay, is a longtime associate of DeStefano and now works for the Institute for Learning.
On June 9, Maccario wrote to DeStefano that she was "in contact with Sally Mentor Hay about the fit of Studio" in Baltimore schools. That evening, she forwarded to him e-mails from Mentor Hay and another institute fellow, who wrote that Studio is "an exemplary example of literacy/language arts curriculum" that embodies the institute's philosophy.
Studio puts grammar, spelling and other conventions aside while using teen magazines to engage children in reading and writing. It has a track record in only one other city, Denver, where reading and writing test scores have not gone up.
Maccario said, in an interview, that the institute does not recommend particular curricula to school systems, but it does outline the features that its officials believe a curriculum should have. "I didn't know anything about Studio that I could offer any kind of comment on it," she said.
The city school board approved the use of Studio in July at a cost of at least $2 million. In December, The Sun reported on inadequate teacher training, insufficient classroom materials and children reading magazines such as CosmoGirl! with tips on making out.
Within two months, Copeland decided to replace Studio as the city's primary language arts curriculum, and school board chairman Brian D. Morris promised that people would be held responsible for the mistakes.
A month later, DeStefano found himself in the thick of another controversy, with the news that half of the freshmen admitted for this fall to the city's elite Western High School had not met previously established admissions standards. In addition, some of the most qualified applicants were not admitted to another top school, Polytechnic Institute.
DeStefano's critics wondered whether he was trying to divert the best students to the small high schools he created in attempt to raise test scores there. He said he was faced with a shortage of qualified applicants.