Teachers group to bid city adieu Relocation: The Maryland State Teachers Association is disappointed that Baltimore has shown little interest in its move to Annapolis.


Clarification and correction

It was The Education Beat, not Maryland State Teachers Association President Karl Kirby Pence, who referred here Aug. 25 to the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore as MSTA's "enemy" (humorously, we thought). Pence called from the Democratic National Convention to request the clarification. On Aug. 4, this column said James Watt invented the steam engine. Jarrettsville reader Gertrude Zvonar submitted encyclopedic proof that it was an English engineer, George Stephenson.

FIRST THE Maryland State Teachers Association pulled its mammoth annual convention out of Baltimore, complaining that the city really didn't want the teachers' business.

Now, 15 years later, the MSTA is moving its headquarters to Annapolis, leaving the historic Hopper-McGaw building, a former specialty grocery and wine store at Charles and Mulberry, as empty as a condemned school. (The lone tenant, First Union, has already closed its street-level branch.) You can have the four-story building for $825,000.

And again, MSTA leaders say the city doesn't seem to care.

Betsy Moyer, associate executive director of the 47,000-member union, said the MSTA was "disappointed" when it informed city officials more than a year ago of its intention to move and got no response.

With a $9.5 million budget, about half of which is payroll, the MSTA is no USF&G; or other large company threatening to move hundreds of employees, but it has a splendid history and adds a touch of class, to abuse a pun, to the Charles Street corridor. The location had been home to MSTA headquarters since the early 1960s.

MSTA's 35 Baltimore employees will join seven already in Annapolis in a building on renascent Main Street that the association is buying for $1.8 million. It's a matter of sensible staff consolidation and of being "more visible" and closer to the state's power center, said Karl Kirby Pence, the MSTA president.

Baltimore had lost the MSTA October convention in the early 1980s to the only other place in Maryland capable of accommodating a meeting of its size -- Ocean City. MSTA officials complained then, and complain now, that Baltimore officialdom is not really interested in the conventions of in-state organizations.

Particularly an organization of teachers.

When the meetings were held in Baltimore, most Central Maryland teachers commuted. That didn't please the hotels. And teachers are notoriously low spenders and tippers. Released from classrooms for two days each October, usually with pay, "we go to conventions to work," said Pence.

The MSTA's autumn gathering used to be much bigger affair -- in fact, it was the school event of the year -- before teachers won the right to bargain collectively in the late 1960s. Superintendents and principals met concurrently with the teachers. The educators filled the 5th Regiment Armory and downtown hotels to the brim.

Today principals and superintendents are "management," and some districts have cut down on the time they'll allow teachers to take off for their Ocean City meeting.

When the MSTA headquarters moves just before Thanksgiving, Pence said, he'll miss the close proximity to the "enemy." The Roman Catholic Basilica of the Assumption is across Mulberry Street, and the offices of the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, from which emanate heretical proposals for parochial school aid and school vouchers, are a block away.

L "Overlooking the diocese has kept us straight," Pence joked.

Educators take flight at back-to-school meeting

To boost morale and add some zest to the annual back-to-school meetings for administrators, Baltimore Superintendent Walter G. Amprey came up with a theme. The educators were on a jet plane, Flight 9697. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke was the air traffic controller, Amprey the pilot, his deputy, Patricia E. Newby, the co-pilot.

It got more elaborate. The principals met by regions, each an airline: Southern Air for the Southern region, for example. When they returned from regional meetings to their assigned schools, they were on "return flights." A "connecting flight" at 2 p.m. Tuesday took them to Martin's West in Baltimore County for crabs and beer.

Needless to say, there was much discussion of the appropriateness of the metaphor. "Maybe they think we're ValuJet," said one principal. But there was also humor. &r; Education Beat heard that at one of the meetings a woman -- we don't know who -- appeared on the stage to announce that the jet lounge would be equipped with slot machines, the proceeds from which would be pumped into the schools. The woman left the stage to gales of laughter, returning some time later to announce that she had been wrong. There would be no slots on Flight 9697 after all.

Responding to an Education Beat inquiry at week's end, Amprey said the crab feast was sponsored by "private donors including Martin Resnick [Martin's West chairman] and other community and business supporters. Absolutely no Baltimore City Public Schools funds were used."

Pub Date: 8/25/96

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