Moving to comply with a court order, Baltimore's top officials have approved a $436,950 contract with a Jarrettsville computer company to improve the city schools' system of keeping track of special education students.
4 GL Software Solutions Inc. will provide database development, links between individual schools and the central office and other services under a one-year contract approved unanimously yesterday by the Board of Estimates.
Sister Kathleen Feeley, the city's special education administrator, told the board that the "interim" system would be in place by next month. She said another $500,000 would be needed to get a complete system in place by June.
"This tracking system will work," Dr. Feeley said. "We can't give services to children we can't find."
Putting in a new system to track special education cases is one of several steps the city was ordered to take in April to comply with a consent decree in an 11-year-old federal lawsuit over special education.
U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis also directed the city to hire an administrator to oversee special education programs and to develop short- and long-term goals for improving services and education.
Over the past several years, the city has spent some $8 million for computer equipment and software to monitor special education students as they move through the school system or transfer schools.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said he had concerns about the amount of money being spent but that he hoped the board's action would put the city into compliance with the court order.
"Without reviewing the painful history of the computer system, I think all of us would have preferred doing this," the mayor said. "But I've been persuaded by Dr. Feeley that this is the light at the end of the tunnel."