City College principal, under fire, meets with Alonso

Some expect leadership change amid declining achievement at school

August 12, 2010|By Liz Bowie, The Baltimore Sun

City College's principal and Baltimore schools CEO Andrés Alonso met for two hours Thursday amid speculation that a change in leadership may be imminent at one of the city's premier high schools.

Administrators union president Jimmy Gittings said the meeting, which he attended with Principal Tim Dawson and Alonso, "was a very in-depth meeting and a very informative meeting." Gittings declined to say what had occurred but added that he expected Dawson to meet Friday with the City College community.

"I am quite sure Mr. Dawson will meet with staff" on Friday, Gittings said.

School administrators would not confirm the meeting or comment on whether there would be a change in leadership. Dawson did not return phone calls Thursday.

Earlier this week in a briefing to alumni, school officials detailed the school's decline in student achievement over the past several years, including a drop in average SAT scores and the number of students taking International Baccalaureate exams. The average combined SAT score fell by 57 points in three years.

For about a century, City has been considered one of the best of the city's selective public high schools. Numerous Baltimore leaders have graduated from the school, and alumni are active in promoting it.

Dawson said in an interview Wednesday that not all of the figures were accurate, but he acknowledged a decline in some key areas. For instance, only five students graduated with an International Baccalaureate diploma last school year, down from 12 the year before.

The speculation about Dawson's status comes the same week that sexual abuse charges surfaced against a City College staff member. Ryan Marcus Coleman, 34, of New Northwood in Baltimore, a hall monitor and "dean of discipline" at the school, was arrested last month and charged with abusing a 17-year-old student. The school system says he left the school in May.

If Dawson were to leave his job, it would be the third magnet high school in Baltimore to undergo a recent change in leadership.

Barney Wilson, principal of Polytechnic Institute, was reassigned Tuesday to Reginald F. Lewis High School after Alonso asked him to lead one of the city's most challenging schools. Matthew Woolston, a longtime assistant principal and teacher at the school, will take over at Poly on an interim basis.

Western High School's principal, Eleanor Matthews, retired at the end of the school year and on Tuesday the city school board appointed Alisha Renee Trusty, an assistant principal and Advanced Placement coordinator in the Anne Arundel County school system, to be the new principal at the National Blue Ribbon school.

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