Criticized city school official resigns

DeStefano in flaps on admissions, language

September 20, 2006|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,Sun reporter

A controversial Baltimore schools administrator has resigned from his job, school officials confirmed yesterday.

Frank DeStefano left his position as deputy chief academic officer, the No. 2 academic official overseeing city middle and high schools. His resignation was effective Friday, said school system spokeswoman Edie House.

Last school year, DeStefano made headlines when he lowered the admissions standards at some of the city's elite high schools. He also was instrumental in selecting a middle school language arts curriculum that drew so much criticism that the system scrapped it midyear.

DeStefano could not be reached for comment yesterday.

City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke - who told The Sun in May that DeStefano was consistently "the root of the problem" when she ran into trouble with the school system - said yesterday that she hopes the system will move past his work in Baltimore and focus on academic priorities.

"It's time for us to get back to basics and to move forward," she said.

DeStefano's supporters called him visionary and innovative. But he was also at the center of conflict during his years as a regional superintendent in Brooklyn, N.Y., from 1997 through early 2001. He resigned there amid allegations of financial mismanagement and a dictatorial leadership style.

After leaving New York, DeStefano worked as a consultant for the Fund for Educational Excellence in Baltimore under former executive director Bonnie S. Copeland, then followed Copeland to the city school system when she became chief executive officer in 2003. Copeland stepped down in July.

During DeStefano's tenure in Baltimore, the school board entered into two contracts, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, with the Institute for Learning, a think tank founded by his mentor and with which he had long been associated.

In the summer of 2005, the system adopted the language arts curriculum Studio Course, produced by an employee of the institute. The curriculum was scrapped in February, two months after The Sun reported on inadequate teacher training, insufficient classroom materials and children reading magazines such as CosmoGirl! with tips on making out.

House, the school system spokeswoman, said yesterday that the school board is scheduled to vote next week to extend a contract with the Institute for Learning to provide leadership training to 80 assistant principals.

Also yesterday, system officials said that Peggy Jackson-Jobe, who worked under DeStefano as the area academic officer overseeing middle schools, has taken a leave of absence. She had recently been transferred from the middle school office to supervise alternative schools.

In other personnel moves, the system has temporarily named administrator Idalyn Hauss to the newly created position of special education officer, overseeing special education. Everene Johnson-Turner, who was the deputy chief academic officer overseeing elementary schools, has been named student support officer, overseeing guidance, student records and other services. Previously, there was one position - student support services officer - that conducted both functions.

Sun reporter John Fritze contributed to this article.

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