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Baltimore, EAI launch contract negotiations


Baltimore and Education Alternatives Inc. officials began contract renegotiations last week with a meeting to outline key ,, concerns.

The topics omitted are as interesting as those agreed upon as negotiating points: Improved curriculum and increased control over staff, which EAI managers frequently have stated as issues, will not be the focus of the discussions.

Instead, the city will seek during the next three weeks to tie the company's profits to student achievement. Also, changes will be sought in the formula used to determine EAI's cut of the total school budget, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said last week.

City, schools and EAI financial officers will meet to develop a financial plan for funding the nine public schools they co-manage, Mr. Schmoke said.

Under the current contract, EAI will receive $5,601 per pupil for expenses and profit after reimbursing the city for administration in the 1995-1996 school year. That is $994 more per pupil on average than the city plans to spend in its 170 other schools.

Absent from the list of issues EAI put on the table was a call for direct control over teachers and other school-system employees, Schmoke said.

"I raised that as a question, and much to my surprise that was not one of their concerns for these negotiations," he said.

The company's contract does not permit it to discipline, promote, transfer or fire city school employees. It may make recommendations to school Superintendent Walter G. Amprey about employees.

However, the company has not used that option to change its staff, and so did not raise the issue for negotiation, said EAI Chairman John T. Golle last week. Instead, "What we have stated is we are going to step forward and exercise a right we have not used," he said.

The schools' curriculum is not expected to be an issue in negotiations because the company plans to work through the summer to retool it to better meet the state education goals tested annually, Mr. Golle said.

Mr. Golle has said that his company is open to tying profits to student achievement, especially if the standards are linked to a measurement of individual students' progress rather than one that attempts to average or otherwise calculate a school's total performance.

"We want to be measured by the performance of our children -- child by child," he said.

An additional issue open for discussion is the fate of EAI's consulting contracts with three schools where it does not have ++ responsibility for academic performance, Mr. Golle said. These contracts have not been as profitable for the company as its management agreement for the nine other schools, he said.

Closing a deal will depend on the schools' 1995 test scores and an evaluation of the last three years of EAI students' performance, due this summer from University of Maryland Baltimore County analysts, Mr. Schmoke said.

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