Alonso needs a driver

March 10, 2012

Your editorial criticizing Baltimore schools CEO Andrés Alonso for his driver's pay is misleading ("Driving Mr. Alonso," March 6).

As Philadelphia's former superintendent, who also worked 12 to 15 hours a day, I know having a security officer who provides transportation is more effective and less expensive than hiring additional staff with benefits.

A driver permits the CEO to answer scores of emails and phone calls and save time looking for parking spaces. It is far more productive to pay attention to things that matter to our children's education.

You acknowledge these reasons but then suggest that Dr. Alonso drive himself more often. What proportion of emails or phone calls should he leave unanswered? How does he decide which stops should include the extra time to look for a parking space? Which trips do not require security? The little amount that might be saved is not worth the loss in productivity and safety as the CEO works on behalf of our children.

Editorial space on a trivial topic does not improve education. Use your influence on strategies that have demonstrated improved outcomes — three-year-old prekindergarten; extra instructional time; support for quality teaching; home visitors for at risk families with newborns; and community schools.

Or, take editorial space to say thanks again to Mr. Alonso for supporting policies that have reduced dropouts; improved academic achievement; moved cash from the central administration into schools; created an imaginative $1.2 billion school construction program; and negotiated a model teacher contract.

Finally, as an urban superintendent (with a driver) and twelve years as Maryland's state superintendent (without a driver), I know from experience that there is a significant difference between the daily activities of the two, justifying the additional support for Baltimore's superintendent.

Ultimately, we should judge the CEO by the success of our students. Editorials like the one you wrote verge on being whiny. The Sun has been and should be better than that.

David Hornbeck, Baltimore

The writer is the former state superintendent of schools, the father of two Baltimore City principals and the grandfather of four Baltimore public schoolchildren.

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