A small group of parents and education advocates urged the city school board yesterday evening to spend its nearly $10 million reserve fund on increased staffing and security across the school system this year.
The request from the Baltimore Education Network, and from parents and students, echoed other calls for funding that have been made to city school and state officials this school year, as complaints of understaffed and dilapidated schools have surfaced. Other groups have asked for additional state and city funding.
The group that testified yesterday came armed with examples of needy schools in run-down condition and lacking teachers. Darryl Parker, a student at School No. 426 in the Lake Clifton-Eastern High School complex, said his school has been troubled by fires and other security problems.
Parker and others urged the school board to immediately spend the reserve fund, which it created to avoid cash flow problems such as faced the system last year.
"It's raining right now," Parker said. "Don't wait to use your rainy day fund."
Jacqueline Johnson, the grandmother of two city pupils, testified about a stabbing this month at Southwestern High School and urged school officials to do more to protect students from violence.
"Invest in our babies, because it's pouring outside," she said in alluding to the threats that students face.
In a symbolic gesture, about eight people in the audience stood up and opened umbrellas.
School board member Kenneth A. Jones said he was moved by the testimony. He asked Chief Financial Officer Rose Piedmont to look for areas in which the system may have become too frugal.
"We cannot overspend, but we cannot underspend either," Jones said.
In other business yesterday, the school board cleared the way for two more charter schools to open next fall, bringing the total number of new charter sites to five.
One of the schools, the Inner Harbor East Academy, will be jointly operated by Sojourner-Douglass College and the East Baltimore Community Corp., an umbrella organization of 26 community groups. The school, which eventually will offer prekindergarten through 12th grade, will be housed in a Sojourner-Douglass building that is used only for night college classes.
The other charter school approved by the board will be operated by the Northwood community and located in a building owned by the Northwood-Appold United Methodist Church. The Northwood-Appold Community Academy will open this fall with kindergarten through second grade but eventually will serve pupils through the eighth grade.