Former Mayor Sheila Dixon wants more focus on helping kids cope with trauma and City Councilman Carl Stokes wants extended day classes for many students, under education plans the two mayoral hopefuls released Wednesday.
Dixon, a former elementary school teacher and adult education instructor, wants to expand after-school programs and support services, such as child care and mental health treatment, offered through city schools.
"I know how hard parents across our city work to attain a good education for their children," Dixon said in a statement. "As mayor, my job is to be the chief advocate for Baltimore City's children and the education that will prepare them for productive adulthood."
Her plan centers on six prongs: listen to children and parents, make schools family centers, attract and retain strong principals, support teachers, promote partnerships and be a vocal advocate.
Stokes, who co-founded two charter schools, said the school system's failure to provide African-American children "a decent education" is evident in testing levels and drop-out rates. He wants enhanced wrap-around services, stronger community partnerships and more system-wide accountability.
Far too many children are below proficiency in both math and reading, he said.
"Am I the only one who believes this is unacceptable? We are failing our children, our future," Stokes said in a statement.
Each outlined their policy plans in eight-page strategies.
Dixon said she will push to gain more direct mayoral control of the school system from the state. The city is the system's "primary customer and its second-largest funder," she said. She wants to have full authority to make all board appointments and power to hire and fire the CEO.
She wants to double the number of community schools, which have full-time coordinators who work to engage families and connect them to services that can improve their health, living conditions and learning. Dixon said she also wants mental health and social support services available on demand at schools and to redouble efforts to find homes for homeless children and their families.
Dixon said she wants to "find and train rising stars within the district, and recruit excellent leaders from outside the system" to help create more thriving schools. She wants to prepare teachers for working in urban classrooms by giving them a "deep understanding of the cultural and historical context within which their students are developing" and developing "trauma-informed practices to help children develop resilience."
Additionally, Dixon wants pre-kindergarten for more children, more intensive mentoring programs and better collaboration with businesses and community colleges to provide vocational education.
Stokes also set some specific goals in his plan, including reaching 89 percent fourth-grade proficiency by 2020 and mandatory extended day classes for students in grades four to eight. He wants incentives for teachers and administrators to live in the city with tax breaks and other perks, such as student loan relief and discounts to city attractions.
Much like elsewhere in government, Stokes is calling for an audit of each of the school system's administrative offices and departments. He also wants a partially-elected school board.
To improve student performance, Stokes said he will assign more teachers to reading and math classrooms and provide more tutoring programs. He wants to build more partnerships in the community to provide students with dual enrollment at higher education institutions, internships and on-the-job training.
Stokes said he also will replace pipes in old schools that contaminate water with lead, provide dinner to students in extended day and after-school programs. He said he will work to create new discipline and classroom conduct standards.