City parents testify they want bigger role running local schools They offer lawmakers at Annapolis hearing an alternative overhaul plan

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Fed up with the politicians and bureaucrats, city parents at an Annapolis hearing yesterday demanded a larger role in the future government of Baltimore public schools.

A city parents' group called on elected officials to restructure Baltimore's school board so that the majority of its members are parents, teachers, students and school employees.

"Take the politicians out of it," said Ed Freeman, father of two students, speaking for the parents' group Friends of Education. "I trust us, the parents."

It marked the first time in a continuing public debate over the control of Baltimore's struggling schools that parents independently added their proposals -- a sign of emerging activism sparked by their fear of a possible court- or state-ordered reorganization or takeover.

Their plan was submitted near the end of a joint hearing of the state legislative committees overseeing education policy and spending, moderated by Baltimore Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman and Del. Howard P. Rawlings, both Democrats.

Just weeks before state school spending and local management issues are scheduled to be argued in court, the Annapolis hearing allowed the state and city to face off in public once more.

The topic yesterday was a proposal by legislators for a top-to-bottom reorganization of city school management, which they could hammer into place by revising the City Charter during the next General Assembly session.

Predictably, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, schools Superintendent Walter G. Amprey and prominent Baltimore ministers opposed the draft law. State schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, the state school board and the Greater Baltimore Committee spoke in favor. Most officials departed before parents had their say.

"Listening to the politicians blaming each other back and forth, fTC you get the impression that the children are just footballs in the debate," Gwen DuBois, mother of four city students, said afterward. "It has to be local control, and by that I mean principals, teachers and parents having control, because they are where the children are."

Legislators have proposed a "Baltimore City Education Authority" to replace the nine-member school board and superintendent. When the authority is in place, said supporters, the city would receive new dollars for education.

This is the latest version of a proposed state-city "partnership" that Schmoke derided as a "disguised takeover."

The mayor -- who hires the superintendent, chooses the school board and tinkers with the education budget -- would give up power if an authority were created.

It would have a seven-member board of directors, appointed by the mayor and the governor. At least three members would have expertise in corporate or institutional administration. Two would have expertise in education.

The authority would hire a chief executive officer, chief academic officer and chief financial officer to manage city schools.

A parental "advisory board" would also be created -- and that is what set off the parents who spoke yesterday. To them, the proposal treats parents as an afterthought.

Freeman's group proposed a school board made up of six parents, three teachers, two students, two business people and two school employees.

Pub Date: 10/17/96

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