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Plan for Leadership Academy advances, but without empowerment zone funds


Baltimore school officials said yesterday that they will move ahead with plans for creating a character-building academy at Lake Clifton-Eastern High School.

But, bowing to the concerns of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, officials said federal empowerment zone funds would not be used to finance the proposed Leadership Academy of Baltimore.

The academy, a school within a school, would be developed using theories and practices of the private Hyde School in Bath, Maine. Hyde, which provides leadership training and challenges students and their families to take responsibility for their learning, already has a privatization venture in a New Haven, Conn., public school.

Baltimore School Superintendent Walter G. Amprey won a preliminary commitment Tuesday from empowerment zone leaders for about a third of the $3.3 million needed to launch the academy. By Thursday, however, the zone board's top officer had reconsidered because the mayor objected to spending the federal money at a school outside zone boundaries.

"In the final analysis, I will dare say that there will not be any empowerment zone money for a Hyde School project that isn't located within the zone," said C. Edward Hitchcock, the empowerment zone president.

Lake Clifton's location had concerned zone board members. But they were impressed by the school leaders' proposal, and believed that if academy students were recruited only from the empowerment zone, the federal funds could be used.

Yesterday, at a meeting with the mayor, school officials reiterated their support for the academy.

Dr. Amprey said he intends to keep looking for financing and community support. "We'll try to work around it," he said of the loss of empowerment zone funds.

The Baltimore Teachers Union suggested the city shouldn't spend more money on private education ventures, but agreed to hear out the Hyde proposal at a future meeting.

Dr. Amprey had proposed a partnership, with the zone providing 31 percent, Abell Foundation 2 percent and the school system about 67 percent, according to documents submitted to the executive committee overseeing zone spending in sections of East, West and South Baltimore.

But the mayor raised several objections. He noted that the city promised to spend the federal money on programs that later can be sustained with municipal or private funds, and that the source of future funding for the academy is unknown. Another problem is that the academy would require more money than is spent on other schools, he said.

Dr. Amprey remains committed to Lake Clifton-Eastern as the academy site because few other schools are large enough; Douglass and Dunbar high schools are in the zone, but neither has enough space. Lake Clifton-Eastern's principal, Stanley Holmes, supports the idea, the superintendent added.

Sandra Wighton, a regional superintendent, yesterday briefed teachers at Lake Clifton-Eastern. She said the academy would occupy part of a wing of the sprawling school and would be administered independently.

Dr. Amprey had proposed opening the academy in September with about 300 students, and adding 300 a year during the next two years. Eventually, the academy would serve 1,200 students, according to the empowerment zone proposal.

All students would participate voluntarily and the academy would use Baltimore teachers. Andrey Bundley, assistant principal at Harlem Park Community School, has received Hyde School training and would serve as academy principal.

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