Public debate on city schools proposal ends

Plan to close one school, reorganize four others faces little resistance from community

December 11, 2010|By Yeganeh June Torbati, The Baltimore Sun

Public discussion of a proposal to close one city school and reorganize four others ended Saturday with little community disagreement, a marked change from past years that commissioners attributed to a better-timed process and greater trust between officials and the local communities.

Facing closure in 2012 under the plan is the Institute of Business and Entrepreneurship High School near Hanlon Park, a school officials said has faced falling graduation rates and enrollments. Two other high schools and two elementary/middle schools would see substantial changes under the plan.

Andrés Alonso, the chief executive of the city's schools, announced the moves last month.

Saturday's meeting, held at the city schools headquarters and attended by about 20 people, was the last public discussion of the proposal before it goes to a vote before the school board in January. Just one member of the public, a teacher, opted to speak on the changes, and the meeting was adjourned an hour early.

Joy Bacon, who identified herself as a 10th-grade English teacher at the high school, said that while she does not disagree with the closing of the Hanlon Park school, she feels that most of her students "have been set up for failure" by a lack of communication between school administration and teachers. New leadership was installed at the school just before the start of the year in September.

"Most teachers found out what we were teaching this year the day before school started," Bacon said, adding that students received their schedules on the first day of school, leading to weeks of mixed-up classes.

Four other schools, including Cherry Hill Elementary/Middle School, Moravia Park Elementary/Middle School, Patterson High School and Benjamin Franklin High School at Masonville Cove will also see changes under Alonso's proposal. The plans include internal overhauls, expanded career training, and more programs geared toward international students, many of whom are refugees with little formal schooling, officials said.

Lisa Akchin, a school board member, noted the improved public reaction to school changes this year compared to closings proposed in 2008-2009, Alonso's first year at the helm of the city's education system. That year, hundreds of parents, students and community members turned out to public meetings to express anxiety over the sweeping changes.

"When we now propose to close a school, there isn't that kind of knee-jerk resistance," said Anirban Basu, a board member.

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