City schools send mixed signals on staffing


February 08, 2007|By Sara Neufeld and Brent Jones | Sara Neufeld and Brent Jones,Sun reporters

Baltimore school administrators contradicted last night earlier assertions by the school board chairman that elementary schools expanding to serve sixth- through eighth-grades don't have enough staff.

Interim Chief Executive Officer Charlene Cooper Boston and Chief Academic Officer Linda Chinnia defended the centerpiece of a major school consolidation plan, telling City Council members that extended elementaries have a better teacher-student ratio than traditional middle schools.

Their comments, at a hearing of the council's education committee, differed with an earlier statement by school board Chairman Brian D. Morris. In December, Morris had vowed to address concerns about inadequate resources at extended elementaries.

Contacted after last night's hearing, Morris said he would reserve comment until after speaking with Chinnia and Boston, but he said he'd never before heard anyone say the extended elementaries have enough staff.

"We said collectively we knew there were some issues with the funding and we knew we were going to address them," Morris said.

Asked about the contradiction, Boston said, "We're giving you the facts."

The city school system is closing up to two-thirds of its regular middle schools, almost all of which are failing, while expanding dozens of elementary schools through eighth grade. But Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who requested the hearing, says the schools aren't getting the same basics as regular middle schools.

Chinnia, the chief academic officer, said that while regular middle schools receive one teacher for every 30 students, elementary schools adding sixth-grade classes all received at least two sixth-grade teachers, even if they had fewer than 60 sixth-graders.

But at the hearing, parents and staff from Waverly Elementary/Middle School said their sixth- through eighth-graders are lacking both teachers and resources, including a library, science labs and working computers.

City Councilwoman Helen Holton called the situation at Waverly "embarrassing."

She said the school system should stop expanding elementary schools until it can provide resources to run quality middle schools.

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