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March 31, 2010

Carroll County assistant superintendent chosen to lead school system

Stephen H. Guthrie, assistant superintendent for administration in Carroll County, has been named superintendent for the school system.

Guthrie will replace current Superintendent Charles Ecker on July 1, when Ecker retires.

Guthrie, who began his career as a social studies teacher in 1978, taught in California and Pennsylvania before arriving in Carroll as a teacher in 1982. Guthrie began working for the human resources department in 1991 and became the director in 2001. Guthrie has held his current position for the past eight years.

Read the story here.


Posted by John-John Williams IV at 12:55 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Around the Region

New Carroll County superintendent to be named this morning

We’re eagerly awaiting word from Carroll County school officials as to the new superintendent chosen to replace Charles Ecker, who is retiring at the end of the academic year. Read more here.

Officials have been hush-hush as to the identity of the new leader.

All we know is that a national search yielded 22 candidates to apply for the position that pays $180,000 annually.

The announcement is scheduled to be made at 10 a.m. Come back to the blog later today for an update.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 5:39 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Region

March 30, 2010

What do you think about this?

By now you might have heard the controversy brewing over the Texas School Board's decision to include Conservative revisions to social studies and economics curriculum.

The Conservative version of the standards, which will affect the way textbooks will be written, was recently approved with a vote of 10 to 5 along party lines, with all Republicans on the board voting in favor of it.

Since January, Republicans on the board have passed more than 100 ammendments to the 120-page curriculum standards.

The conservative members on the board say that they are trying to correct years of liberal bias.  There were no historians, sociologists or economists consulted by the board during the meetings.

Read the article and let me know what you think. 



Posted by John-John Williams IV at 10:08 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Around the Nation

March 29, 2010

Good news For three Baltimore City schools

Three Baltimore City elementary schools received some pretty awesome news Friday.

Brehms Lane Elementary School, a pre-K-5 in Northeast Baltimore, was chosen as one of 32 schools nationwide to receive a Target School Library Makeover.

The makeover will bring thousands of dollars' worth of new books, furniture and equipment into the school's reading and research area. In addition to the library's receiving 2,000 new books, computers, furniture, shelves and carpet, each student will get seven new books to take home.

Two other elementary schools in the city - Mary E. Rodman and John Eager Howard - were named finalists for the prize and will receive $1,000 to purchase new books.

All that's missing now is an ABC camera crew and that annoyingly energetic Ty Pennington...

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 11:06 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore City

March 24, 2010

A look at Hairston's 10 years in Baltimore County

From Baltimore Sun reporter Childs Walker:

It's not terribly common for a superintendent to last 10 years in today's education environment, and it's even less common at a large, complex system such as Baltimore County. But Joe Hairston has done exactly that, and today's print edition looks at his life and the reasons why he's remained in the job as long as he has. For one, he maintains an unusually placid demeanor, even during contentious episodes such as the recent standoff with teachers over the AIM curriculum program. For another, he expertly manages his relationship with the school board, perhaps too expertly according to those who say the board affords him a rubber stamp. 

In one particularly interesting moment, Hairston argued that his job is more difficult than the one faced by Andres Alonso in Baltimore City. He had to be a reformer as well, he explained, but had to do so without ruffling too many feathers in a county where many folks liked the status quo just fine. What do you guys think? Whose job would you rather have?

Regardless what you make of Hairston, he has led a fascinating life. He starred on the great all-black football team at Maryland State (now UMES). He entered his field at a time when the vestiges of segregation remained but went on to become the first black superintendent at two major school systems. He preached data-driven accountability before it was the in thing. Because of his low-key nature, he hasn't received as much attention as some of his peers, but his story is worth thinking about if you're interested in the state of our schools.

Posted by Jennifer Badie at 11:20 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Baltimore County

March 23, 2010

Maryland's Race to the Top application

Being ranked No. 1 in the nation by Education Week isn't going to be enough to give Maryland a good chance at the $250 million prize of federal education funds in the Race to the Top competition; nor will the state's No. 1 status as the state with the highest percentage of seniors who took and passed at least one Advanced Placement test last year. What will be needed, according to Anand Vaishnav, a consultant who is helping write the state's Race to the Top application, is for the state to produce a bold plan with emphasis on improving teacher and principal quality. The state legislature is currently debating legislation that would require school systems to make student testing a significant part of the teacher and principal evaluation, as an effort to better position itself in the race. States with the most competitive applications, Vaishnav said, are those that go even further.

For instance, some states have said they will use the evaluation data to identify high-performing teachers and principals and then deploy them strategically in some of the lowest-performing schools.

Vaishnav made it clear that Maryland should try hard to get school districts and teachers unions to sign on to the state's application for Race to the Top, a federal program that will dole out $3 billion in the next six months to a handful of states, particularly in the area of improving principal and teacher effectiveness and in turning around the lowest-performing schools in the state. Vaishnav works for Education First, a nonprofit based in Seattle that the state has hired to help.

On April 7, the state will release the first draft of its application and we will let readers comment on how bold a proposal they see! 

Posted by Liz Bowie at 1:00 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Around the Region

March 19, 2010

Impressive results for Chicago charter school

Here's an inspiring story out of Chicago.

All of the 107 seniors at Urban Prep Academy for Young Men in Englewood, an-all male charter school in a tough Chicago neighborhood, have been accepted to 4-year colleges.

It's remarkable when you think about where the students started. Only four percent of the graduating class were able to read of grade level when they arrived at the school. (Wow!)

The school essentially starts pushing the idea of college from the beginning. Incoming freshmen go on a college visit at Northwestern University. Each student is assigned a college counselor freshman year. The school's extended day gives students 170,000 more minutes of classroom time than its counterparts. And students are required to take four times the normal amount of English to graduate.

Can any charter school advocates in this area tell me why this isn't being done here? 

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 12:48 PM | | Comments (27)
Categories: Around the Nation

March 17, 2010

Boys lag behind girls in reading in every state

The Center on Education Policy has released a report that should be of great concern for those in education, but it may well receive only shrugs because the reasons and solutions seem so elusive.

The CEP looked at how boys and girls score on state reading and math tests around the nation. The Washington-based nonprofit found that boys trail girls in elementary, middle and high school in reading. CEP president Jack Jennings concludes that the lag is "no fluke. It is a clear and unmistakable national trend." What is more, girls are now scoring equally as well in math as boys.

Jennings said in a press call with reporters that even in the states, like Maryland, that have been considered leaders in education reform, the statistics are not good. In Maryland, he said, there is a 10 percentage point gap between girls and boys in middle school in reading. Boys would need another 8 years of education before they could catch up, and they would only get there if girls growth remained stagnant. In Maryland, girls have a four percentage point advantage by middle school.

The gender gap in education has been reported before, but I am not aware of another study that took a comprehensive look at state test data across the nation. What do teachers and administrators believe needs to be done to change the trend? CEP suggests that boys only want to learn about what they are interested in and that textbooks are much more geared toward girls. Once the report becomes available online I will provide a link.








Posted by Liz Bowie at 6:00 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Around the Nation

March 16, 2010

Van Hook clarifies 'neo slavery' phrase

One phrase essentially set off a powder keg of discussion at last Tuesday’s Baltimore City school board meeting.

Board member George Van Hook Jr. used the word “neo slavery” in describing the process of closing schools in the city. School CEO Andrés Alonso immediately expressed opposition to the phrase and launched into a speech about the school system’s history of failing to properly educate its students.

A day after the meeting, Van Hook clarified what he meant by using the phrase.

“I am not saying that the Baltimore school system or the school board is promoting slavery,” he said. “What I was referring to was the de facto denial of the opportunity for people to participate fully in the people’s ability to determine the destiny and the outcome and the teaching model for their children. I look at this as being a type of control or self determination. It is subjugating and oppressing people by denying their right to self determination.”

Van Hook said he took issue with the communication process associated with a plan to close a number of low-performing schools. Parents were “confused, stymied, and flustered” by the communication process involved in the recent school closings, according to Van Hook.

“[The process] was something that was hurtful and insulting to a community that thought that they would have more of a voice in the outcome,” Van Hook said. “We did nothing illegal. It is the right of the school board or the school system. [But] I believe we did not go as far as we should have gone in defending broad-based education.”

The board voted unanimously to close the following schools at the end of the academic year: Diggs-Johnson, West Baltimore and Winston middle schools and Doris Johnson High. It also voted to shut Chinquapin Middle, with Hook casting the only vote against its closure. At the same meeting, the board also unanimously approved an arts theme for Booker T. Washington Middle. And the board voted to revoke the charter status of Dr. Rayner Browne Academy, which became the first school in the city not to be issued a charter contract renewal.

“My comments again were really intended to talk about the visceral reaction to a process that really limited or blocked the full participation of a community that wanted to be engaged and had a right to be part of the decision making process,” Van Hook said.

“When I believe that people are hurt and they have been oppressed I speak out about it. That is my responsibility as a school leader,” Van Hook said. “Hopefully we will become better. Next time I hope we will sit at the table early and work with the stakeholders.”

Alonso declined to comment about the term “neo slavery” when I spoke with him Thursday. He referred me back to his transcribed comments from the meeting.

During the meeting, Alonso said he was very disturbed by the phrase "neo slavery."

Alonso added: “Neo slavery is for decades having a school system where half the kids don’t graduate from high school. Neo-slavery is having schools that year after year, after year fail kids; where 70-80% of kids are at basic in state tests that they are condemned for life in some way.

"Neo slavery is walking in a school system two years ago, as I did, and find that less than 20% of the eighth-graders are proficient and above in the MSA. So the recommendation is about what I believe is going to get kids moving as fast as possible.

"And if it takes to be CEO of this school system to get agreement then I am the wrong CEO for this school system. Because (I am willing to entertain it)…because the reality is that the only thing that matters… the only thing that matters is outcomes for kids. And my recommendation is based on finding the best option I believe for the school. Now, if the community truly means what it is saying about what is best for kids in the school, then it is going to do whatever it needs to do to make whatever option that emerges from today’s conversation successful. Because quite frankly, it hasn’t been successful in the past or we would not be at a point where… nobody wants to close a school because it is the hardest thing to do. It is so much easier to just coast, so much easier to coast rather than to have these conversations.

"But 'neo slavery' is what we’ve had here for a long time. What we are proposing….what we are proposing is a school that I believe is the quickest way to get us to where we need to go with our kids. And, it is the responsibility of the community to embrace no matter whatever the decision is, and that’s the recommendation.

"And what I need from the Board, and I have requested this guidance several times, is that if the Board is telling me that next year before I go to the Board with a recommendation that everybody has to be happy then you know we will figure out a way to make it work. But if, what we want from this school system is to move as quickly as possible to move student outcomes, then it cannot be simply a democratic process, there is going to have to be decisions where people are not going to be happy and recommendations will have to be made. … Ultimately, it is the Board’s decision.

"But I think that what we need is to be as respectful of ourselves in the process as we are asking us to be of community. The use of that term is highly objectionable to me. There is a difference in that term and simply making a decision on the basis of what one thinks is good for a group of kids, and then holding the direction and responding to the criticism from the community.

"The movement towards keeping the seventh-graders in the school was a difficult decision, and it was all about listening to the community’s concern about if this was a good school then why wouldn’t it be open to the kids that were already there. So I don’t want to engage in a debate but I have to respond to that term… it is not a term that is acceptable to me.”

What do you think about Van Hook's use of the phrase "neo slavery"? And what do you think about Alonso's response at the meeting?

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 12:00 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Baltimore City

After school closings, shopping for options

Baltimore Sun staff writer Arthur Hirsch contributes a report:

With the meter running on decisions about choosing another Catholic school, more than 100 Cardinals Gibbons School parents and students streamed through a suite of rooms upstairs in the Fine Arts Building Monday evening  to check out their options.

Representatives of 10 high schools from as far away as Annapolis and as close as a couple miles away had set up tables at the southwest Baltimore campus to dispense information and answer questions. With Gibbons scheduled to close in June as part of the Archdiocese of Baltimore's plan to reshape its school system, there were lots of questions, many concerning money in one way or another. Would their child's Gibbons scholarship continue? Would the archdiocese cover the difference between the Gibbons tuition and the new school?

"You'd think they have funds to offset this difference in the tuition," said Shawn Blum, of Halethorpe. His son, Riley, was on a full scholarship in his junior year at Gibbons and is now thinking about transferring to Mt. St. Joseph, the next nearest Catholic school, but at more than $11,000 in tuition, $1,000 more that at Gibbons. That could work, Blum said, but it might depend on the scholarship. In  in the end it could mean Riley completes a senior year at Landsdowne High School, a nearby public school.

"A lot of students are really upset," Blum said. "Their parents had paid to go to Catholic school, then they have to finish it up at a public school."

More than 2,100 students in 13 schools are being displaced, and the archdiocese has promised each one a seat in a Catholic school, either among the 52 remaining archdiocesan schools or independent institutions. Applications are due on March 29, with admissions offices scheduled to mail out their decision letters on April 13.

"The Catholic schools stood up tonight and said 'We're here for you,'  " said Mark D. Pacione, the archdiocesan associate director for Catholic schools planning.

Parents had come to gather information this time, not vent their anger as they had a week before as a standing-room crowd of some 1,000 packed the school auditorium to face archdiocesan officials. But it was clear that the wounds were still fresh, and there was still talk of ulterior motives in closing the boys' school, and of giving Gibbons another chance independent of the archdiocese.

"Why let this property sit, why not give us a shot?" said Richard Irwin, whose son, Garth, was graduating from Gibbons this year and whose younger son, Ryan, is in 10th grade and now weighing his choices. They were leaning toward Archbishop Curley, across town on the east side, not least because it's closest to Gibbons in size with about 600 students, roughly twice the Gibbons enrollment.

Ryan had scheduled a "shadow day" at Curley this week, meaning he would follow a Curley student through the day and get a feel for the place. He was scheduled to spend another day after that at Archbishop Spalding in Anne Arundel County, but if he liked Curley he'd probably stop the search right there.

"You knew everybody" at Gibbons, said Garth. "You weren't like a stranger walking around."

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 AM | | Comments (4)

March 15, 2010

Filipino teachers recruited to sell Mary Kay products

In yesterday's paper, I wrote about a Baltimore City principal who recruited several Filipino teachers to buy and then sell Mary Kay products. The teachers said they believed it would be in their best interest to purchase thousands of dollars in products, even though they knew they were not likely to resell the products. What discipline do you believe the principal should have received?

Posted by Liz Bowie at 9:39 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Baltimore City

March 12, 2010

Mississippi school cancels prom to prevent lesbian student from bringing a date

School officials at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi have found themselves amid controversy after sending a letter home to students telling them that their prom dates must be of the opposite sex.

One student, Constance McMillen, objected and expressed the desire to bring her girlfriend to the prom. Instead of allowing McMillen and her date attend the prom, the school canceled the prom.  

The American Civil Liberties Union has gotten involved and has sued the school district.

I want to know if this could happen in Maryland. Are there any policies -- written or unspoken -- that prevent LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) students from attending prom?

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 10:51 AM | | Comments (22)
Categories: Around the Nation

March 11, 2010

You think your school system has it rough?

It seems like every school system is experiencing some type of economic woes this budget cycle. A number have been fortunate that they haven't had to close schools or cut jobs. The school district in Kansas City, Missouri is a different story.

Wednesday night the Kansas City School Board approved a plan that would close 28 of the school 61 schools and would eliminate 700 jobs. The changes would save the school system $50 million.

Wow! Could you imagine the elimination of such a huge chunk of schools and workforce? The morale there must be so low. I can only imagine the response from both staff, parents, and students.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 10:19 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Around the Nation, School Finance

March 10, 2010

D.C School's Chancellor Michelle Rhee is engaged to Sacramento's Mayor

Michelle Rhee is now engaged to former NBA star and current Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson. I wonder how many folks in D.C. are wondering whether or not marriage might mean a departure from her current job?
Posted by John-John Williams IV at 12:17 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Around the Region

Purchase of grammar desk reference in county

We report in today's paper the story of a failure of the Baltimore County school administration to get board approval before spending $300,000 on The Little, Brown Handbook. The book is a well known reference guide that can be used to look up grammar questions that was handed out to elementary and secondary school teachers.

There are two issues here. The first is that county policy states that expenditures of more than $25,000 must be approved by the board. The second is that books, which unlike other items that the school system buys, aren't bid and so textbooks have to go through an evaluation before they can be purchased. PTA and union leaders say there hasn't been enough vetting of the textbook purchases recently. The administration says that the Little, Brown Handbook didn't need to go through that process because it wasn't being purchased for students.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 11:57 AM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Baltimore County

Heated debate at board meeting amid school closures and a charter contract revocation

The Baltimore City school board late Tuesday night approved the closure of four middle schools, a high school, and revoked the charter of another low-performing school.

 The board voted unanimously to close the following middle schools at the end of the academic year: Diggs-Johnson, West Baltimore, and Winston. They also voted to close Doris M. Johnson High School. Chinquapin Middle will also close. Board member George Van Hook was the lone vote against its closure. The board also unanimously approved an arts theme for Booker T. Washington Middle. The board voted to revoke the charter status of Dr. Rayner Browne Academy, which became the first school in the city not to be issued a charter contract renewal.

My sources tell me that there were plenty of fireworks between schools CEO Andres Alonso and Van Hook. Apparently, Alonso was offended after Van Hook used the phrase "neo slavery" when talking about the school closures. I'm trying my best to track both men down today so I can see what both were actually thinking during the exchange. I promise to have some type of update on this in the near future.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 11:50 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Baltimore City

March 9, 2010

Alonso quells rumors of his departure

The rumors that Baltimore schools chief Andres Alonso was going to announce March 1 that he would be leaving his job were so rampant that he took the opportunity to try to put them to rest last week.

At a conference on how to increase the graduation rate, Alonso said to a crowd of hundreds of educators, "I am staying." He said he had more work to do and that the rumors were incorrect. The CEO will have been here for three years as of July 1. If my memory is correct he will become the longest serving ceo in a long time (at least the past 13 years), if he is still here on July 2nd.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 10:27 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Baltimore City

March 3, 2010

Catholic school closings to be announced today

This afternoon, the Archdioce of Maryland will be telling principals, students and parents what schools it will be closing at the end of this school year. If there are parents or teachers who hear the news about a school, please feel free to give us your reaction here. We welcome comments here as the Catholic community learns the news today.
Posted by Liz Bowie at 12:01 PM | | Comments (30)
Categories: Around the Region

March 1, 2010

Closing Catholic schools

The Archdiocese of Maryland will be making a major announcment on Wednesday about the Catholic schools in the state.  After a year of studying how to stem the loss of students, the archdiocese is expected to announce that it will close a significant number of schools as we write in Sunday's paper.

While the Catholic schools have educated many residents in the past, the number of Catholics who attend the schools has dropped. The Archdiocese can no longer support schools with dwindling enrollments, and so they have made some hard decisions. Some of the schools that are thriving are those that charge significant tuition, have raised outside money for endowments and are attended by middle and upper middle class students. The parish schools that remain in the inner city and in rural areas have had more difficulty.  In the past, the parochial schools have gone to the state seeking some public dollars to keep them afloat, including money for textbooks. Do readers believe we should subsidize the parochial schools?

Baltimore schools CEO Andres Alonso has said he would hope to make all the public schools so good that the private schools can't compete. Is greater competition from the charter schools hurting the parochial schools?


Posted by Liz Bowie at 1:34 PM | | Comments (34)
Categories: Around the Region
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