Education advocates call for Alonso to address communities on hiring of 15 new executives
Responses are coming in on the story we ran today about Baltimore city schools adding 14 new, $125,000 executive director positions to the central office to evaluate and provide "deeper support to principals." Additionally, city schools CEO Andres Alonso has budgeted to fill the $175,000 position that he created for Brian Morris, who resigned from the post before filling it, in 2009. According to a presentation given at this week's city school board meeting, the deputy CEO's office will have a $231,000 budget (including salary).
We raised questions about the appropriateness of this plan, given that schools are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars, and teachers, programs and resources are being cut at the school level due to budget constraints. Many parents and city leaders had the same question.
School officials revealed the new positions late Tuesday night to the city school board, and many board members understood the cost of the positions to be absorbed by central office savings that came at the expense of 89 people losing their positions and other scaled back spending.
However, on Wednesday, the school system said they would be "grant-funded" positions, funded by federal Title II dollars designated for professional development. School officials justified the use of the funds, which in the past have been used for new teacher and principal programs, to fund permanent, salaried, positions because the executive directors would be serving similar functions. Note: Two of those positions already exist, filled by Irma Johnson and Roger Shaw, and have been paid for with general funds.
Still, debate was brewing on area radio shows, and among city leaders and education advocates Thursday, about how these positions could be created just months after thousands braved the rain for hours in Annapolis to protest state lawmakers to fully fund city schools.
Doc Cheatham, who now heads up the National Action Network--Greater Baltimore Chapter, said that he was one of those people, "who was honored to be pulled down in the rain because it was for our children." But, Cheatham said in an interview Thursday, “the timing of this just couldn’t have been at a more challenging time.”
Cheatham wrote Alonso an email today asking him to come forward to the community and explain his position. While the school system may say that the new additions are grant-funded positions, many still question whether its money well spent.
“The fact that we’re letting go of staff, letting go of teachers, and then adding to 15 positions,” it just doesn’t sit well or read well to us," Cheatham said, adding that he will reach out to other education advocacy groups to weigh in on the plan, including the Baltimore Education Coalition, which organized the funding rallies in Annapolis.
Cheatham emphasized that questioning Alonso wasn't a personal attack, but “we did what was asked of us in standing up for the schools, and this is about our children and what’s best for them, and about the dollars that we have being best spent.”