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Alonso Mourning?

Two years into his new four-year contract and six years after he arrived from New York, Baltimore School Chief Andres Alonso

he's leaving the job to spend more time with his parents and teach at Harvard University. Alonso has been a controversial superintendent. He's closed many schools and recast the teachers contract to "pay for performance"—something the union here (as everywhere) fought. He also pared down the school's central administration savagely. All these things, though, were needed, and were not being done at all before he came along. The city's schools are still too big and too many for the student population, but they are headed in the right direction. Enrollment is also up, as are student test scores. The dropout rate is down. The teachers' contract he implemented is something of a national model. And as for the bureaucrats at North Avenue? We never heard anyone argue that there were too few administrators there. These days the head count is down about 50 percent from when Alonso arrived. Baltimore is embarking now on an ambitious, if not entirely funded (yet), school

, aiming to further right-size the city's school infrastructure while finally modernizing it. Alonso's hard cuts in the face of angry parents and other constituents bought the district crucial credibility with state lawmakers, making the billion-dollar borrowing spree possible. Now to hope that Alonso's replacement is at least as competent.

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