Scrambling To Save A School



These are excerpts published in the past week on The Baltimore Sun's InsideEd blog:

A belated push to save Harriet Tubman:

Sun photographer Algerina Perna and I went [last Monday] to a community meeting at Harriet Tubman Elementary, where we found a dozen staff members, parents and neighborhood residents brainstorming to try to save the school before the April 28 board vote on the reorganization plan.

The group is rushing to submit something to the board with ideas for recruiting more students to the Sandtown school, recommended for closure because of low enrollment and academic performance. Tubman has 190 students enrolled and space for 360, according to the system. Last year, its MSA scores took a big dive; the third-grade reading pass rate was 37 percent; in math, it was 40 percent. Fourth and fifth grades were somewhat better. The staff members at the meeting said there's been a turnaround this year under the leadership of a new principal, and they haven't had a chance to show it.

One question I had for Lou Fields, a community activist who organized the meeting: Why didn't this group attend the [school closure] hearings? He said - echoing complaints at the hearings - that the locations at Poly and Lake Clifton made it difficult for west-side residents to attend. He said the room was packed when Tubman had its own meeting with system officials earlier in the month.

Fields argues that ... the school, home of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's OrchKids program, is a bright spot in a blighted neighborhood.

Most of the concerns I heard ... were social rather than academic: the gang-infested neighborhoods kids would have to walk through to get to their new schools, the trouble parents would have getting there. ... The group was searching for a hook, something it could do to make the case that it has to stay open.

There was talk of a public relations campaign, of recruiting parents who will pledge to send their children to Tubman next year, of sprucing up the school and asking [schools chief Andr?s Alonso] and board members to visit. But I'll be surprised if the plan changes this late in the game.

Sara Neufeld

Commenter OverTheTop wrote: "The information was presented on March 5, 2009, and they are now just started a defense? Is it too little, too late? Far [too] many parents walk around with their heads in the ground when it comes to issues about BCPSS. Then when something happens to their school they act surprised and offended."

Reader Calamity responded: "By now anyone in the school system should know that this is how the board has and will continue to operate. Parents, Teachers and the Community are never given an appropriate heads up as to what may occur at a school until they have already had their meetings and then bring it to a board meeting after the media tells it or too much whispering about it. This practice will continue which is why no one really trusts the powers that be on North Avenue. This goes for the staff, parents, the community and most importantly the students. You cannot expect to have trust with so much back door politics continuing."

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