Hopkins, Morgan take reins of city school

Community says move restores Hopkins' humanitarian legacy in East Baltimore

August 26, 2011|By Erica L. Green, The Baltimore Sun

For decades, tensions have brewed between residents of the city's Middle East community and neighboring Johns Hopkins institutions, as generations watched its prosperous past fade to blight while Hopkins continued to build its august future.

But on the site of a small classroom trailer this year, their fates will converge.

Johns Hopkins' and Morgan State's schools of education will assume operation of the East Baltimore Community School in a unique partnership of two universities. It's the first time the universities, considered national experts in the best practices for educators, have taken on such an endeavor.

The planned K-8 school was a selling point for the redevelopment of 88 acres north of Johns Hopkins Hospital's sprawling campus, which has relocated 750 families from the Middle East neighborhood and continues to draw ire and skepticism from some in the community.

The universities are taking over the charter school that was begun by the developers and has posted subpar test scores. University officials hope to transform it into one of the highest-performing schools in the city before it moves from the trailer into a new $30 million facility in 2013.

"For generations, we've trusted Hopkins with our health care, with our lives, and this is what we've wanted them to do in the larger community — take care of the neighbors outside their door," said Nia Redmond, a lifelong resident of the Middle East neighborhood and a community representative of the group that has undertaken the area's redevelopment. "That didn't happen for a long time."

Redmond described how past generations were the cooks, janitors and housekeepers for Johns Hopkins. "Then our kids had to go out on the corner and sell drugs because their parents can't make a living." Redmond said the community has sought a new school for nearly two decades.

University officials say the East Baltimore Community School will become a showcase for the best practices in closing the achievement gap for children in urban communities, and some community members see it as a symbol of progress in repairing longstanding mistrust.

"It's the right thing to do," said Patricia L. Welch, dean of Morgan's School of Education. "The community deserves to have a world-class school for the children."

Officials at Hopkins, which has long pointed to its philanthropic efforts in the city, say the school also will fulfill a century-old ambition of Johns Hopkins himself.

In 1873, the Quaker millionaire directed the trustees of his estate to build his legacy on 13 acres in East Baltimore, with the construction of world-class health and education institutions to serve the community, particularly its youth, according to archival records.

In instructions, the abolitionist and humanitarian ordered that the Johns Hopkins Hospital Colored Orphan Asylum be built at the same time as a world-class hospital, for the "reception, maintenance and education of orphan, colored children," and designated thousands of dollars annually in his will to sustain it. It began operating two years after his death in 1875 and closed in 1924.

"Hopkins the man, not the institution, saw this need, but as the institution grew, the man got lost," said Redmond, who will also serve on the school's board. "Johns Hopkins would be so proud of this school. Hopkins is finally coming back to do what this man started."

Hopkins University will be the primary day-to-day operator of the school. Officials say it will be an anchor in the community and eventually occupy a 90,000-square-foot facility. Hopkins will tap virtually all of the university's social and educational programs, including the Peabody Institute and School of Medicine, and has received $1.5 million in private funds for resources such as curriculum design and professional development for teachers.

"We're making a bold statement because this community is deserving of a high-quality school," said David Andrews, who took his post as dean of Hopkins' School of Education in 2010 and will oversee the school's restructuring and day-to-day operations.

"It's all about having a high impact for kids. We can prove that it's not only possible, but it's doable — to turn around a neighborhood by having an anchor education institution."

Morgan, which specializes in science, technology, engineering and math curriculua, will bring its manpower and knowledge about educating children from urban communities. Welch is a member of the school's board, and the university's administration will be instrumental in advising about operations at the school.

"The partnership will be reflected in the lives of the children," said Welch, also a former Baltimore City school board member. "They won't see a one kind of world.

Bedrock opportunity

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