School board meeting roundup
Tidbits from last night's city school board meeting:
A lobbyist for parents? Eric White, president of the Baltimore Council of PTAs, used his time during public comment to express his dismay that PCAB (the school system's Parent and Community Advisory Board) wants to spend $15,000 to hire a lobbyist. The PTA's representatives on PCAB delayed the lobbyist vote, saying it's not the best way to spend money designed to increase parental involvement and, furthermore, PCAB put the issue to a vote without showing the voting members a copy of the proposed lobbyist's contract. In the meantime, White asked the school board if its own legislative liaison could lobby on behalf of parents in Annapolis in place of a lobbyist. Michael Carter, chair of PCAB, came to the podium after Carter. The folks sitting near me were bracing for a confrontation, but Carter didn't even mention the lobbyist issue. Instead he talked about...
Admission to citywide high schools. Carter asked the school board to consider giving students at the city's public middle schools preference in applying to the prestigious citywide magnet high schools (Poly, City, Western, etc.), assuming they meet the admissions criteria. Right now, those students could be shut out by higher-scoring students living in the city but attending private middle schools, or by students living in the suburbs who will pay tuition to attend one of the citywides. Andres Alonso said he's recommended to the school board that the system give preference to city residents in high school admission. But board members said they didn't know if they could give kids in public schools preference over kids in private schools if they're all Baltimore residents. Carter said the public school kids should be rewarded for "sticking it out" in the city's failing middle schools.
A parent's struggle continues. Sheila Slade-Lee, the parent who's been at all the recent board meetings complaining about the lack of special education services for her son, was back to update the board that administrators have agreed to pay for the boy to attend a private school. She was upset, however, that there had been a recommendation to send the 7-year-old to a school for troubled adolescents. Board member Buzzy Hettleman said he wants the board to study Slade-Lee's case to see where the system dropped the ball and what lessons can be learned. He said he's concerned that it took her coming before the board several times and being "accused of being a troublemaker" for her son to get needed services. He said he fears the boy would not have gotten services "had you not come up here and irritated everyone in the world on behalf of your child." He told her she had "inspired us to work harder to deal with systemwide problems."
Doing more with less. Dr. Alonso seemed resigned that school systems are not going to get their way in Annapolis and there will be less money in the coming years. He vowed: "The schools will get better regardless of the funding we receive."
Too hot for socks. Jimmy Gittings, president of the system's administrators union, complained when he came up to speak that the temperature in the board room was too hot. "I half expected you to take your socks off," board chairman Brian Morris quipped. Gittings is known for wearing dress shoes and pants with no socks.