Minter picked as academic chief

William Paca Elementary principal among those named to key posts by city schools

December 12, 2007|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,Sun reporter

Mary Minter, a longtime Baltimore principal who oversaw an academic turnaround at William Paca Elementary, was named chief academic officer of the city school system last night.

The announcement came as the school board approved the creation of three new charter schools and made two other high-level administrative appointments: Linda Eberhart, an award-winning math teacher at Mount Royal Elementary/Middle who campaigned for Gov. Martin O'Malley, will become director of mathematics. And Roger Shaw, principal of Paul Laurence Dunbar High, is the new executive director of secondary schools.

The board approved the applications of two new charter schools to open in 2008: a middle school with a health focus and a Montessori elementary school.

It also signed off on the creation of a second city middle school run by the Knowledge is Power Program, or KIPP, which already oversees Baltimore's highest-performing middle school. The new school is not due to open until 2009.

The vote will bring the total number of charter schools in Baltimore to 26, more than the total in all of Maryland's other school districts. Charter schools are public schools that operate independently.

As the system's top academic official, Minter will replace Linda Chinnia, who resigned on the first day of this school year without explanation. Several sources have said that Andres Alonso, who took the helm of the city schools as chief executive officer in July, asked Chinnia to step down.

Minter's appointment is consistent with Alonso's philosophy of empowering successful principals. She started her career in the city schools in 1973 as a teacher at Thomas Johnson Elementary, where she worked until 1991. She served as principal of Curtis Bay Elementary from 1993 to 2000 before transferring to William Paca. There, as the school saw a steep rise in test scores, Minter was named one of four Maryland Distinguished Principals, providing training to other principals and serving as a mentor for new principals.

In the summer of 2006, she was promoted to serve as an "area academic officer," overseeing a group of low-performing schools, yet she also remained in her role as William Paca's principal.

Eberhart, a former Maryland Teacher of the Year, founded the MathWorks program, where math teachers from around the city gather after school to talk about what's working in their classrooms and what's not. A study released earlier this fall showed that students whose teachers participate in MathWorks post significantly higher test scores than their peers.

At the time - just three months ago - Alonso said at a board meeting that he had offered Eberhart a job as the school system's math director and she turned him down, saying she did not want to leave the classroom.

Shaw has been principal at Dunbar, a citywide magnet school, since 2001. The school, a well-established athletic powerhouse, has seen substantial academic improvement in recent years.

The health-themed charter school will be called Afya Public Charter School. Afya means "health" in Swahili. It is designed to address two problems: the obesity epidemic among American youth and the low performance of middle school students. With 310 students, it will focus on critical thinking skills and physical activity.

Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School will initially serve children in prekindergarten through fourth grade, eventually expanding at least to sixth grade and potentially to eighth. It will be located in or near the Charles North neighborhood, stressing multiage classes, hands-on projects and art exploration.

KIPP'S new school will serve fifth through eighth grades, with about 400 students.

Also last night, the board renewed a contract for one of the city's first charter schools, Patterson Park Public Charter School, which opened in 2005. The contracts of all 12 schools that either opened or converted to charters that year will expire in June. The board is scheduled to vote at its Jan. 22 meeting on renewal of 11 of the contracts, but Patterson Park requested an early decision so it can secure funding for its building.

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