Sweeping overhaul urged for Baltimore school bureaucracy Consultants call for end to 'culture of complacency'


A nationally known consulting firm urged a sweeping overhaul of the city's school bureaucracy yesterday, saying the "culture of complacency that pervades the Baltimore City public schools must be broken."

Still to be seen, however, was how much of the plan given to the school board last night would be put in place. School Superintendent Walter G. Amprey has already begun some changes of his own.

Among the key parts of the proposal drafted by Cresap/Towers Perrin, a consulting firm hired by Associated Black Charities, the Abell Foundation and other groups to assess the system's management:

* The elimination of 77 jobs in the bureaucracy at an estimated savings of $2.7 million over two years, including the elimination of 28 school police officers.

* Streamlining everything from school security to textbook purchasing by eliminating duplication, cutting excess staff, and shifting some work from headquarters to the schools themselves or to contractors and other city agencies.

* The hiring of a new school official who would free the superintendent of day-to-day management responsibilities.

* Creation of a cadre of 12 "executive directors" who would each oversee a cluster of 15 schools.

* More power for school principals, who would have more leeway to pick their staff, design their school's teaching programs, and the funds to purchase supplies and services.

* Creation of a network of so-called "enterprise schools," with greater authority over their own operations, and incentives for good performance. The consultants envision about 25 of these schools in the first year, and more each year. But they also recommend that schools lose this designation if they fail to meet performance goals.

Over and over, the consultants hammered away at the need for a dramatic change in the relationship between the central bureaucracy and local schools.

Past bureaucratic shake-ups "have had little impact on the quality of education," the consultants wrote.

"The last thing the Baltimore City public schools need is to undergo another reorganization that gives the illusion of progress, while masking the fact that very little has changed in the way of educational services delivered to students," they said.

And while they recognized the school system's morale problems, the consultants said there needs to be a fundamental change in employee attitudes.

"The expectation must be clearly communicated that employees who do not get with the program will be left behind," they said.

The consultants set a time frame of three to five years for their plan to be put into effect fully, but they recommended that some changes be made almost immediately.

The study now goes to Dr. Amprey, who is expected to use it in making specific recommendations to the school board.

He praised the consultants' work, particularly the suggestions for giving more decision-making authority to individual schools and making the bureaucracy more businesslike.

Dr. Phillip H. Farfel, president of the board, said that the study "goes way beyond moving boxes and organizational charts around, and gets to the heart of the matter, which is the classroom."

He cited the study's focus on increased authority for schools and on holding the central office more accountable for its performance.

But Dr. Farfel cautioned that "this is simply a management report which the board is receiving. It is not something that is going into effect until Dr. Amprey gives us recommendations."

The study, which was six months in the making and cost $245,000, comes three months after Dr. Amprey announced his own changes in the central office.

Among other things, Dr. Amprey's plan calls for the city to be divided into six regions.

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