He said he didn't believe the renovations were excessive. "I feel like what's important is to build an environment that people want to be in," he said in an interview this week. "For me, it's about people."
The renovations comes as city and state leaders as well as community activists and educators lobby for additional funding for school repairs. Alonso has sought support for a proposal in the General Assembly to leverage state dollars to finance $1.2 billion in school construction. Though the measure failed, a host of supporters rallied behind the plan in Annapolis and promise to put it forward again next year.
Meanwhile, state legislators are preparing to head back to Annapolis for a special session in the coming weeks on the state's budget. The city stands to lose $34 million unless additional revenue is raised. Mitchell said news of the headquarters renovations would make it that much harder for the Baltimore delegation to convince their colleagues in other jurisdictions of the city's financial plight.
"I feel bad for the advocates, for everybody who comes down to Annapolis and who work very hard to fight for funding the schools," he said. "It kind of takes the wind out of all our sails."
On Wednesday, Alonso appeared before the City Council's Education and Youth Committee to testify in support of a new bottle tax proposed by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. That plan would raise $10 million that would leveraged with other funds to float $300 million in bonds for school construction.
Ryan O'Doherty, the mayor's spokesman, said Friday, "Dr. Alonso has taken responsibility and accurately described the renovations as 'bad judgment.'"
Neil Duke, president of the city school board, said the board is in the "early process of thinking through what happened" with the renovations. He said board members had expectations that departments would practice prudence.
When asked whether the school board should approve such expenditures, Duke said that "it might not be prudent to act too reflexively by over-regulating an issue that is easily mitigated by sound and practical judgment."
Some activists said the school board should have oversight over renovation expenses.
"I think it's a clear case here, where the process of procedure has to be overhauled," said Marvin "Doc" Cheatham, president of the local chapter of the National Action Network, which has campaigned for better school facilities.
Cheatham, who said district officials made an "ill-timed and ill-fated decision" on the renovations, also said this situation fuels the debate about whether or not the school board should be partially elected.
"We need a few individuals that are answerable to the community," he said.
In addition to extensive school construction needs in the system, the district is cash-strapped and Alonso has continually targeted the central office for job and resource cuts every year.
Marietta English, president of the Baltimore Teachers Union, noted that in the last two years, the system's budget crunches have resulted in teachers having trouble finding permanent placements.
"It was just poor decisions in how they are spending money," she said.
The city Parent Community Advisory Board said it is requesting a meeting with the system's leadership, to "determine what action is being taken, and to ensure that this does not happen again."
"We are losing teachers and principals, parents are advocating in Annapolis for better funding for our schools," said Melanie Hood-Wilson, on behalf of the group's executive board. "And expenditures of these sorts are outrageous."