A 'Schmoke screen' of mayoral errorsIt is...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

A 'Schmoke screen' of mayoral errors

It is very interesting to watch Mayor Kurt Schmoke of Baltimore operate. To my knowledge, Mayor Schmoke has never admitted making any wrong decisions or mistakes in judgment during his tenure in office. I believe Mr. Schmoke is operating under a "Schmoke screen."

His most recent "Schmoke screen" is the Educational Alternatives Inc. fiasco.

Even though pupil performance has dropped within the last two years, the mayor is still willing to allow this farce to continue, not only at a loss to the students of their right to a quality education but at a cost to the taxpayers of over $28 million per year.

The mayor is planning an "independent" evaluation next spring. Next spring? By whom and at what cost? Also, Dr. Phillip E. Geiger, EAI's Maryland president, will also conduct another evaluation.

Isn't this like putting the fox in the hen house to count the chickens? I believe I can foretell the future on both these "evaluations."

A majority of City Council members have advised Mayor Schmoke to terminate this losing program. But the mayor, apparently looking for a miracle, insists on continuing his financial boo-boo.

The mayor makes references to the City Council's lack of voice when test scores two years ago showed that schools other than those operated by EAI were down in performance. Could this be because the test scores submitted also were compiled from misleading data, as they were last spring?

Recently, it was discovered that School Superintendent Walter G. Amprey had failed to file a financial disclosure report on time as mandated by law. Mayor Schmoke tends to dismiss this violation with a statement that Dr. Amprey was unaware of the law. But ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Paul M. Cumberland

Baltimore

Jailed Eagle

My wife and I took a day trip to the Baltimore Zoo. Neither of us had visited it in a number of years. What we found was a mixture of old and new.

The old was small iron cages for some of the big cats. The new was natural wildlife exhibits.

There were many great improvements and an overall well-keeping of the animals, also a great growth under way toward more natural exhibits.

Yet there was a great injustice I felt being done to a species of fowl that stands for justice and freedom of our country. Foul is how I feel it is being treated. I wonder if others can see this injustice as I do.

A number of well-kept exhibits throughout the zoo have large vultures, most in somewhat of a natural habitat.

On exiting the zoo, after going by the small hoofed animal exhibit, you come to one lone vulture in a well-kept large iron cage, on the main path.

But if one is to look past that cage, almost hidden and off to the side, behind thick bushes, you will find another cage. In it are two birds whose species has made a remarkable comeback from the brink of extinction.

These are two American bald eagles, who have been all but forgot ten in their poorly kept cage. Their wings will never know the joy of freedom, or the illusion of it.

They just sit in a basically bare cage at the back edge of a growing zoo, off to the side, looking broken, empty and unkempt.

I hope others may still see what I feel, that for these two proud birds, who are a symbol of our American heritage, to be kept as they are is a disgrace.

They should be the first exhibit that one sees, well kept and looking free -- not the last, seemingly hidden away in shame.

Irwin Louis Fornoff

Glen Burnie

Killing kids

Citizens in the Midwood section of Baltimore raised bail money for the 61-year-old man who murdered a 13-year-old.

Why don't we all get guns and shoot all the kids who have ever aggravated us? Let's shoot all the crying toddlers in the malls, all the loud kids running around on the street, all the kids who have been disrespectful to adults. Let's get rid of them all.

That's the message I hear from the residents of Midwood who bailed a child's killer out of jail.

Andrea M. Garris

Baltimore

'We are making progress at Walbrook'

As principal of Walbrook High School, I was most disturbed to see the column by Marilyn McCraven about the plight of inner-city schools and her nephew's experience at Walbrook (Oct. 15).

While I would be among the first to admit that we have problems in public education, I cannot help but feel that Ms. McCraven's column presents an unjust portrait of Walbrook High School. The letter has had a demoralizing effect upon the faculty and students, and I feel that I must respond.

Because Walbrook is not a private school, it suffers from the restrictions that often cause problems in public schools.

Unlike a private school, which can be selective in accepting students and can remove those who do not measure up to its standards, we must accept students from all walks of life with all manner of social and personal problems.

We are obligated to retain those students until they are 16 years of age. We also must be careful about removing those who are not measuring up, because there are few alternatives for a student who has been removed from our rolls.

Whereas the failed private school student has public school as his other safety net, our students have no such luxury. We are, therefore, obligated in good conscience to make every effort to work with every student no matter what his or her social, economic or personal disadvantages.

This does not, however, excuse every shortcoming or give license to accepted mediocrity. We take Ms. McCraven's column seriously, and we are looking closely at each point she makes to see what we can learn and what can be done to improve what we are doing.

All of this notwithstanding, what troubles me most is that Walbrook, while not perfect, is a leader in innovation and has an excellent reputation among national educators for its pioneering steps.

Not content to allow the problems of public education to stifle creativity, Walbrook has for many years been a leader in educational reform.

Read 10 articles about the future of education in America and at least seven will prescribe the methods that are being employed at Walbrook.

Integrated curricula, exhibitions, portfolios, outcome-based education, diversified assessment methods -- are all touted as the future of American education among today's pedagogues. They have been standard practice at Walbrook for years.

Five hundred educators came to Walbrook last year; I think it fair to say they did not come to observe the typical problems of an inner-city school.

This year, we have added to our curriculum a ground-breaking business institute and a federally-funded career academy focusing on the maritime industry.

Ms. McCraven's column, while certainly written with the best of intentions, has had a damaging effect on the morale of a faculty that prides itself in being on the leading edge of educational reform and is proud of a long-standing record of achievements.

I respond for their sake so that they will know that their efforts are recognized and will be encouraged to continue. I can assure Ms. McCraven and every other concerned parent that we have taken their criticisms to heart.

But we are doing so while keeping our heads high, proud of our achievements and ever-dedicated to providing the best education for our students that we possibly can. Neither we nor they deserve any less.

Marilyn E. Rondeau

Baltimore

The writer is the principal of Walbrook High School.

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