Santelises: City schools are on the right track

City Schools’ teachers, staff, and school and district leaders share Karen Houppert’s sense of urgency about accelerating progress for our students (“Chicago schools overcome high hurdles. Can Baltimore’s?” Dec. 7). In my weekly and monthly visits to schools across the city, I too have seen the demoralizing effects of our many inadequate facilities, and every day when school and district leaders review our daily data updates, we see starkly how much work we have to do in improving success for all our students.

At the same time, my school visits never fail to make clear our students’ incredible talent and potential and the dedication of teachers, principals and school staff.

At the beginning of this school year, we opened the first two schools in the district’s 21st Century School Buildings Program — light-filled, modern, safe and beautiful buildings where enrollment is growing and the promise of joyful learning fills the air. Seven more buildings are on track to open by the first day of school next year. In the first model of its kind here in Baltimore, we partnered three of our lowest performing schools with a school that successfully accelerated progress for students, to share best practices in achieving the kind of growth seen in Chicago.

In September, we rolled out our blueprint for building a generation of successful young people in Baltimore through a focus on literacy, student wholeness and staff leadership. In the coming days, we’ll take the next step in implementing that plan with the announcement of 55 schools that will become “intensive learning sites” for one of the focus areas, accelerating progress in those areas and becoming models for nearby schools. This work is garnering national and local attention, along with support from the philanthropic community. Across the district, we are also intensifying professional learning for our teachers, not only in their content areas but also in recognizing additional resources our students may need.

With the support of Mayor Pugh, Governor Hogan, and city and state partners and lawmakers, we have stabilized our financial situation, and for the first time in several years, we are beginning budget planning for the upcoming school year without the specter of cuts and layoffs.

While the work is hard and progress can at times feel too slow, there is positive momentum at city schools and both a vision and plan for success. We have set an ambitious path forward, and our young people deserve no less. We invite all of Baltimore to learn more about our work and ways to participate by contacting your local school, calling us at 410-545-1870, or visiting www.baltimorecityschools.org.

Sonja Brookins Santelises, Baltimore

The writer is CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools.

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