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Amid contract negotiations, Alonso's priorities to shift

Neil Duke, the Baltimore City school board president, has revealed that the board is seeking to renew city schools CEO Andres Alonso's contract through 2014 -- negotiations that start a year before the CEO's current contract ends in June 2011. It was a choice that Duke called "obvious" for the board, due to Alonso's proven ability to restore faith and stability in the school system and the superintendent position, which he has now held longer than any other CEO in more than a decade. A Baltimore Sun poll showed that many readers agreed with Duke. The e-mail responses I've received about the possibility that Alonso will be sticking around have been mixed, with many agreeing that Alonso has undoubtedly broken the "business as usual" mentality at North Avenue, but others remain troubled by his sometimes polarizing tactics. What has garnered the most consensus is the fact that the true success of a superintendent -- student achievement -- has yet to be realized in Alonso's tenure. Our editorial board explained The Sun's position on how Alonso will truly earn his legacy as a reformer of city schools. I sat down with Alonso for an hour two weeks ago, where he generally agreed with what has been his most critical feedback.

Alonso offered some reflections that didn't make it into my story about his tenure in Baltimore, namely that the majority of it has been about "the institutionalization of protocols."  But, he said, the city can prepare for his focus to shift to student achievement in a "pronounced way" very soon.

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"What is next from an institutional perspective is a focus on teaching and learning that I think we haven't had until now. New  common core standards will become the law of the land, and that's going to mean an astonishing amount of work in schools to determine what students should know," he said.

Equally important, Alonso said, was that more emphasis would be put on teacher quality, especially as teachers face higher standards and scrutiny in the coming months.

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"I'm always, inevitably, thinking about how would I experience the work as a teacher," he said.  "I'm constantly thinking about whether the conditions that we put in place are conditions that would have worked for me."

What do you think about Alonso's tenure and do you agree that the board should re-sign him now?

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