A bold move

Our view: City schools chief Alonso isn't shy about keeping his word

January 25, 2009

Baltimore schools CEO Andres Alonso says what he means and means what he says. His decision to prod students at the troubled Homeland Security Academy to transfer undoubtedly reflects that. City students shouldn't have to remain in a school that doesn't provide an atmosphere conducive to learning. And to hear the city's top school administrator reinforce that view should be liberating for students and their families. Actions really do speak louder than words with this gung-ho schools chief.

Mr. Alonso chose the right school to make his point. In four years as one of the smaller, themed high schools, Homeland Security has had five principals. As reported by The Baltimore Sun's Sara Neufeld, low teacher morale has been reflected in sick calls. Fights and bathroom fires have contributed to a chaotic atmosphere, the layout of the school building allows kids to come and go as they please, and its academic performance is poor.

As a themed high school, Homeland Security never quite found its groove. It couldn't sustain partnerships with police or fire departments, which was key to its mission. Nor did it have the internal rigor or parental support a successful school needs. After an administrative team spent time there, the environment improved, but once North Avenue officials pulled out, problems resurfaced.

Mr. Alonso couldn't by law shut down the school in midyear, so he did the next best thing - urge students to transfer. And there are students there who want to learn. As the school system helps find new placements for Homeland Security students, officials should commit to recruiting parents to get involved and provide additional help to students during the transition.

"When I say every school should be a school I want to send my kids to, I mean it," Mr. Alonso told us. No one should doubt him.

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