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Towson U gets OK to operate 3 city schools

The Baltimore Sun

The state school board unanimously approved yesterday a plan that allows Towson University to run three academically troubled Cherry Hill schools this fall.

Approval for Towson to manage Dr. Carter G. Woodson, Arundel and Cherry Hill elementary/middle schools was needed because all three were required to restructure after failing for years to meet standards on state tests. Towson already manages Morrell Park Elementary/Middle and will run another Cherry Hill school, Patapsco Elementary/Middle, this fall.

Towson's contract with the city school system expires in three years.

"Our goal is that all of these schools will make adequate yearly progress by 2010," said Jeffrey N. Grotsky, a senior researcher at Towson's College of Education.

Although Towson will have autonomy over staffing and curriculum, the city school system will have final authority over the schools. The five schools will receive the same per-pupil allocation as other schools in the city, schools officials said.

Grotsky, in an interview after the vote, said that the five schools are hiring staffs for the fall and finalizing the academic schedule. Many of the staffs will be overhauled by more than 50 percent after dozens of teachers from those schools - as part of the university restructuring plan - were not asked to return.

The schools will hire teachers through job fairs this month and through recommendations from the principals, according to Grotsky.

"We will be ready to open and fully staffed by fall," he said.

Towson officials said part of their plan to turn around the schools includes additional assessment tests for students to pass into the second and sixth grades. The university also plans to devote more hours in the school day toward literacy and math.

The university will work with eight partners, including the New Leaders for New Schools program, which would train principals as positions opened. Another partner, Baltimore's Safe and Sound Campaign, would provide after-school programs.

Board member David F. Tufaro questioned the need for the outside agencies.

Interim Chief Executive Officer Charlene Cooper Boston disagreed. "I feel we have a nice mix," she said after the vote.

The schools will be run by a governing board led by Grotsky, a former chief of staff in the city schools, and Linda Chinnia, the city schools' chief academic officer.

An article in Friday's Maryland section misstated who will chair a new governing board overseeing five city schools to be operated in partnership with Towson University. The board will be co-chaired by Linda Chinnia, the city school system's chief academic officer, and Raymond Lorion, dean of Towson's College of Education.THE SUN REGRETS THE ERRORAn article June 1 about Towson University's management of three Cherry Hill schools should have more completely explained the views of state school board member David F. Tufaro. Tufaro was concerned about having too many outside agencies on the partnership's governing board and the impact that would have on accountability.The Sun regrets the errors.
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