Jobs up for grabs at 4 schools

Under city board's restructuring plans, staff members must reapply for their positions


Most staff members at four Baltimore schools must reapply for their jobs for next school year under restructuring plans approved by the city school board.

The plans call for replacing "all or most of the school staff" at Ashburton/Nathan Pitts Elementary/Middle School, Highlandtown Elementary School No. 237, Vivien T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy and Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts.

Officials said the staff replacement decisions will be based on student achievement data. No teachers will lose their jobs, but they might be reassigned to other schools.

The schools are among nine in the city that must restructure under the federal No Child Left Behind Act if they don't show adequate progress on standardized tests administered this spring. But because the test results won't be available until next month and preparations for next school year must be made now, the school system is moving ahead with reforms at all nine schools.

The city school board had postponed voting on the plans last month amid concerns that they were incomplete and filled with problems. Last week, the board voted, 6-1, in favor of the plans, with one abstention and one board member absent. The plans will now be forwarded to the Maryland State Department of Education for its approval.

No Child Left Behind requires states to implement structural reforms at schools that consistently fail to meet targets on tests, which seek to ensure that all children demonstrate proficiency in reading and math. Maryland has outlined a variety of ways in which schools can restructure, including replacing staff members and converting to charter schools.

The city school system had been planning to use the least severe restructuring option, hiring an administrator called a "turnaround specialist" to work with the principal, in seven of the schools. The state rejected that plan in March, saying more drastic action is required.

In addition to the staff replacement at four schools, the system is now asking the state to sign off on the following changes:

At Canton Middle and Thomas G. Hayes Elementary, the principals would be replaced with new principals being trained through New Leaders for New Schools. The national nonprofit organization seeks to combat the country's principal shortage by training dynamic candidates in an intense yearlong program. In Baltimore, it is expected to produce 40 principals over three years, with the first candidates ready to be put in charge of schools this summer.

At Harlem Park and Robert Poole middle schools, the principals would be suspended, and central office administrators would take their places until the schools close in 2008. Both schools are slated to close as part of an effort to operate more efficiently.

Morrell Park Elementary/Middle would implement a professional development program run by the local Fund for Educational Excellence, the nonprofit group led by schools chief Bonnie S. Copeland until she was hired by the city schools three years ago.

City school board member James W. Campbell voted against the restructuring plans after expressing concerns that the new principals will be inexperienced.

School board member Diane Bell McKoy, who last month expressed concerns about the quality of the restructuring plans, abstained from voting. The board's vice chairwoman, Jerrelle Francois, was not present for the vote.

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