It was an act of nature. Sometimes, you just do the best you can.

Getting people to work toward the same goal takes real skill. How do you persuade a kid with an attitude problem to start showing up for work on time?

We very much go with the coaching model. We come at management much the way a coach would come at it, whether it's turning around a school, building a ship or operating an environmental center.

There's two simple things that we always come back to at Living Classrooms: You have to be able to work cohesively as a team and produce quality results. You can produce the most awesome results, but if you can't get along with your team, it's not going to work.

Or you could be the coolest person on earth and the greatest team member and everybody loves you, but if you can't get your job done, it ain't going to work either.

So, we boil it down to those two things in every aspect of what we do.

Tell us about something you tried that didn't work out and what you learned from it.

Back in the early '90s we had an after-school program. We were working with hundreds of kids and it was very successful. But, we only had one major funder and they decided to go in a different direction. We had to tell the children and the staff that we weren't going to be able to continue.

It was heart-breaking. But at the same time, that was the fiscally responsible thing to do. A couple of years later is when we got a grant to start our Baltimore Urban Gardening program, so we were able to begin another after-school effort that had a little different twist.

We have a saying around here, "No margin, no mission." You can have the greatest ideas and the greatest programs in the world, but if you can't fund them you're not going to go very far.

This is a business. We're here to help people in the inner city. But, if we aren't being prudent and responsible, in the long run we're not doing the kids any good.

If you go

Living Classrooms will present its major fundraiser, Maritime Magic, at 7 p.m. Friday at Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park, 1417 Thames St. The event will feature entertainment by the MarchFourth Marching Band and the All Mighty Senators, plus food from more than 70 area restaurants. Tickets cost $110 in advance or $120 at the door. Call 410-685-0295 or go to