Baltimore board weighs private school operation


The Baltimore school board agreed yesterday to explore the possibility of having a private Minnesota company run two city schools, a path-breaking concept that will be put to the test for the first time in a Dade County, Fla., school this fall.

Board members decided to look into the legal ramifications and community interest after hearing an enthusiastic report from four school board and union officials who visited a Tesseract private school in Egan, Minn., run by Educational Alternatives Inc., in March. Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has expressed interest in the program.

"The Tesseract school would seem to do all the things unions are against," said Baltimore Teachers Union President Irene Dandridge. "But we can't be because the end results are good for kids."

Ms. Dandridge said the union would approve the waivers from union rules that would be necessary for such a project.

Educational Alternatives runs a second private school in Phoenix, Ariz. It and the Eagan school pay for individual curricula, and tuition ranges from $5,000 to $6,000 a student.

The company has contracted with Dade County public schools to run a new elementary school in Miami Beach, Fla., for no more than the current cost to the school system, the same deal that would be offered Baltimore.

Educational Alternatives has pledged to make up the difference in the Miami Beach school by raising $2.2 million from private sources.

The schools maintain a 12-1 student-teacher ratio, rely heavily on computers, use works of literature instead of textbooks and educate learning disabled children side by side with gifted ones.

Teachers are hired directly by the principals and develop individual learning plans in consultation with parents.

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