I read Kalman Hettleman's commentary ("Alonso's special-ed legacy," Aug. 20) with interest. While the "One Year Plus" initiative may be laudable, there were so many other things that transpired under Baltimore City Schools CEO Andrés Alonso's tenure that were not.
Consider that Mr. Alonso forced principals to take sole responsibility for performance responsibilities that by contract belonged to others. What I am saying is that employees under the auspices of the Baltimore Teachers Union could under perform with little to no consequence. The principal of the school where that employee worked would be demoted or fired. Additionally, there is a saying somewhere that if "something untrue is said enough, people will believe it." That is the case with Mr. Hettleman's statement about Mr. Alonso's claim of "extensive school autonomy." Mr. Alonso never gave principals any autonomy. He just claimed that he did.
I was a high school principal in Baltimore City for 18 years. There was a time when principals did have autonomy and ran schools effectively. Northwestern High School made considerable gains under my leadership with initiatives that I was allowed to put in place for students. The initiatives included school uniforms, flexible scheduling based on student need, evening school, extensive technical education programs and more. My immediate superiors were true partners and had every single initiative approved for me. That would have never happened under the CEO who told principals at one of our initial meetings that he was "a control freak." He certainly told the truth about that. He put so many controls in place that principals could barely get into classrooms because they had to (and have to) send so many reports and e-mails.
I could say more, much more, and would be glad to do so if anyone were interested. However, I'm pleased that I can write this response. I could not have done so if I were still working, but thanks to God and years of hard work, I retired July 1 of this year.
I sincerely wish all Baltimore City Public School employees, parents and students the very best for School Year 2013-2014. They have a leader in the intern who has been the voice of reason and fairness under the Alonso regime. Tisha Edwards is going to be an excellent interim CEO and she would certainly get my vote for the permanent position — but someone else from outside who knows nothing about our school system or its children will probably be brought in from outside.
That's what generally happens.
James I. ScofieldCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun