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Council vents ire over disruptions, dirt in city schools Absence of rezoning also draws criticism


Members of the Baltimore City Council yesterday vented their anger at city school officials over what they said were dirty and crumbling school buildings, disruptive teacher-assignment practices and the absence of a promised rezoning of the city's 180 schools.

"I am literally ready to recommend the elimination of the entire planning and research division," complained Councilman Joseph T. "Jody" Landers, D-3rd, who blamed poor planning for the teacher-assignment disruptions. "In my opinion, they do absolutely nothing."

Mr. Landers said that teacher reassignments -- ordered by school administrators to balance classroom sizes -- often go on for several weeks in the beginning of the school year.

This, he said, makes it hard for children to form the kind of trusting relationships with teachers that encourage learning.

His remarks came during a 90-minute meeting that was part of the council's annual review of the mayor's proposed budget. Council review of the budget is significant because, even though council members cannot add to the budget, they can express their wrath by cutting away at programs.

J. Edward Andrews, deputy superintendent for the Baltimore system, acknowledged that teacher assignments have had a disruptive effect in the past. But this year, he said, the school system created a pool of surplus teachers who could be quickly assigned as soon as the need became obvious, minimizing disruptions.

He and other school officials also said that the school system has addressed complaints of dirty schools by tightening the supervision of custodial firms that have been hired to clean about 23 of the city's 180 schools.

But they said that the need to eliminate 54 custodial positions from next year's budget, in part to free money for classroom expenses, has made things more difficult.

"The bottom-line problem is, we are stretching our custodians in terms of what they are responsible for doing," said Patsy Baker Blackshear, associate superintendent.

Council members also said the school system was in dire need of rezoning because some schools are badly overcrowded while others are underused, something school administrators do not dispute.

Mr. Andrews said that school administrators asked the Board of School Commissioners for permission to draft a rezoning plan earlier this year, but that the school board was not expected to act on the request until later this summer.

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