End of era for city school system Board: One year short of a century, a Baltimore institution passes into history. This week, the mayor and governor will name nine people to serve on a new board.


THE BALTIMORE Board of School Commissioners -- as we know it -- left the stage for all time Thursday night.

As an institution, the board had served with various degrees of distinction for 99 years, but in recent times much of its prestige and power had flowed, first to City Hall, then to the state Department of Education and the governor.

The city school board was born -- and it died -- in the heat of politics. In 1898, the nine-member board appointed by the mayor replaced a 20-member body appointed by the City Council. The idea was to "get ward politics out of education."

The board survived numerous attempts at reform over the ensuing century. There were at least two serious attempts to make it an elected body with taxing authority. In 1925, members of Mayor Howard Jackson's Commission on Efficiency and Economy proposed abolishing the board and turning the schools over to a commissioner of education.

In a recent City Charter amendment that went virtually unnoticed, the power to appoint the city school chief passed from the commissioners to the mayor.

That's a moot point now. This week, as a part of the controversial new city-state "partnership," the mayor and the governor will jointly name a new nine-member board with expanded authority, including the power to appoint a chief operating officer.

Arnita Hicks McArthur, the 15th board president in 40 years, was so emotional Thursday that she had trouble getting through the meeting.

It was a poignant moment in municipal history.

Joy, celebration and weighty advice

A few glimpses of this year's graduations you might have missed in the news:

Some graduates are simply filled with joy. David Stein, an engineering graduate from Brooklyn, N.Y., was so overcome at his Johns Hopkins University commencement Thursday afternoon that he seized President William R. Brody in a bear hug, lifted him from the stage floor and spun him in a circle.

Brody, who conferred 4,902 diplomas on a picture-perfect spring day, took Stein's gesture in good humor.

Tom and Elaine Long celebrated yesterday's graduation of their daughter, Emily Long, from Western Maryland College. They stuffed confetti and a farewell note in the envelope containing Emily's last tuition payment.

"The last one!" they wrote. "Red meat on the table again! A night out! A new dress! New shoes! Now we can see the movie when it actually opens! Hasta la vista, baby, May 24."

Juliana K. Sander, valedictorian at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, delivered an address of poesy. An ancient studies major who's going to Bryn Mawr College for a Ph.D. in the classics, Sander delivered a seven-page poem in which she spoke of Kairos:

A man

with winged feet,

to signify how fleeting moments are,

with long hair in front,

to indicate how moments can be seized,

and with a bald head behind,

to show how opportune moments can be lost.

Grab him by the hair

$ Before he passes by.

Wednesday's UMBC commencement was Louise White's 25th. Somebody has to put these things together, and that's what White has been doing for a quarter-century at UMBC and, before that, the University of Maryland at Baltimore.

Several years ago, White had to republish the UMBC commencement program and rewrite an honorary degree citation for Edward Bennett Williams, then owner of the Orioles. Williams had decided at the last minute that "doctor of letters" sounded better on his honorary sheepskin than "doctor of public service."

Baltimore teachers honored for work

City schools and the Fund for Educational Excellence on Thursday announced winners of the Kurt L. Schmoke Excellence in Teaching Awards.

Rachel Newman-Turner of the Baltimore School for the Arts is the high school teacher of the year; Virginia Richard of Booker T. Washington Middle School is the middle school winner; Stephanie Terry of Ashburton Elementary is the lower school winner; and Perry DeMarsico of Hamilton Middle is the nontenured teacher of the year. Newman-Turner will represent Baltimore in the Maryland teacher of the year competition.

Harford's Lisby was champion of education

Maryland lost a champion in education last Sunday. George D. Lisby, 62, died of a heart attack at Harford Memorial Hospital. Lisby had a year left on his second and final five-year term on the Harford County Board of Education.

He'd made almost a full-time job of his unpaid board service, visiting schools weekly and defending the civil rights of African-American kids and kids in poverty. He'd begun a teaching career in the segregated Harford public schools in the 1950s and moved on in the 1970s to administrative work at the state Department of Education. His funeral was yesterday.

Pub Date: 5/25/97

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