Parents, Staff Express Concern Over Closings

Some At Hearing Say Schools Were Not Given Resources

April 19, 2009|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,sara.neufeld@baltsun.com

Staff and parents at failing schools slated for closure said at a hearing Saturday that they wished their schools had been given the resources to succeed before being shut down.

About 50 people, a few dozen of them school system administrators required to attend, turned out for the second and final hearing on a major school reorganization plan that is subject to an April 28 vote by the board of education. Some speakers complained that the hearings were held at inconvenient locations for residents of the west side, where many of the changes would occur. A hearing Thursday was held at Polytechnic Institute; Saturday's was at the Lake Clifton campus in Northeast Baltimore. Some also said they believed decisions were already a done deal.

Linda Jones, a teacher at Thurgood Marshall High, which would close under the plan, said she doesn't know why her school never got the help it needed. Now, she said, "it's kinda like a kick in the face."

City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke was the only person at either hearing to speak in defense of the Laurence G. Paquin program for pregnant girls and teenage mothers, which would merge with an alternative school for overage middle school students. She said on Saturday that Paquin provides a "serene, safe environment" for pregnant girls, teenage mothers and their babies, and that to put it under the auspices of the alternative school would be "disrespectful."

At both hearings, speakers expressed concern that gang violence would escalate when students are transferred to different neighborhoods. Schools chief Andres Alonso said Saturday that those concerns are real, but if it's accepted that certain kids can't go into certain neighborhoods, "we are never going to be a city that works. Never."

He said the plan - which would close failing schools and expand successful ones - is designed to give parents more good schools from which to choose. He said he would be held accountable for the results. "If it doesn't work," he said, "I'm not gonna be around."

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