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Baltimore City schools schedule public sessions for new strategic plan

City schools hosting sessions on new strategic plan.

Baltimore city schools are hosting a series of sessions through early November for the public to weigh in on the future of the school system and the district's recently unveiled strategic plan.

One session is being held Saturday morning at Polytechnic Institute, and the next is Monday evening at Edmondson-Westside High School. See the full schedule below.

The plan, unveiled earlier this week by city schools CEO Gregory Thornton, is to serve as a blueprint for improving the school system over the next five years in six areas that span academics, staff, school climate, financial stewardship, community engagement, and the district's school options.

An overview of the "Excellence & Equity 2020" can be found here. Plans for each sector can be found here.

Due to be adopted in November and implemented in January, the district kicked off a series of community meetings this past week in hopes of refining the plan with public input.

The plan has been highly anticipated as it is Thornton's first document that has articulated a vision for the district, which he been heavily criticized for lacking.

At the Oct. 19 kick-off community meeting, held at Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School, Thornton told that his vision was "to prepare kids for the next level."

"I believe K-12 is just the warm-up level," he said.

He said the drafts of the plan reflected some "core beliefs," and he was depending on the community to let him know if something was left out. He said more specific details of how success would be measured -- such as actual metrics for measuring academic growth -- would be filled in later.

In the "quality curricula and instruction" session, educators combed through each page of the goals for improving instruction -- all wanting more detail on how goals, such as "the embedding of instructional technology," would supported, financially and in infastructure.

Others pointed out that the district's curricula improvements are to be improved upon from the results of a curricula audit that no one had ever seen.

Others pointed out that instructional goals focused on English/Language Arts, Math and Science, but there was no mention of social studies, civics or art.

Educators worried about how academic goals would actually impact their students.

For example, one teacher pointed out that her elementary school students are noting significant gaps with the implementation of the common core. She also noted that while the plan promotes the new rigorous standards, it mentions no interventions to help students catch up to them.

Parent Latoya Queensbury, who attended with her eighth grader, said she didn't understand what terms like "skillful analytic writing," and what "grade level" really meant when it came to her son.  She pointed out that he couldn't write in cursive, and "can't even read big words--like incapable."

"I'm fearful that he's getting passed on, becasuse there's a lot of things he doesn't know," she said. "High school is right around the corner."

The call for more specifics was among the most repeated suggestions.

School board Commissioner Peter Kanaam said he believed "we need a lot more specifics for people to understand how we're going to do this."

Many who attended said they appreciated the opportunity to be heard. Those who have scrutinized the plan said they hope to see better.

Former city school board member Kalman "Buzzy" Hettleman, who recently went to the board to demand the plan -- which he pointed out was due in September -- said he was disappointed with the first draft.

Hettleman has repeatedly questioned Thornton and his administration to share their plans around raising student achievement, particularly in literacy and reading.

"Sadly, the strategic plan, though just released, is the kind of statement of goals and broad strategies that you would expect around 100 days, not nearly 16 months, after a new administration takes over," he said. "The same astonishing lag is true of the planning process to engage the community."

The other scheduled meetings are as follows.

.Monday, October 26
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Edmondson-Westside High School
501 N. Athol Avenue

Wednesday, October 28
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Frederick Douglass High School
2301 Gwynns Falls Parkway

Thursday, October 29
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Benjamin Franklin High School
1201 Cambria Street

Monday, November 2
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Forest Park High School
3701 Eldorado Avenue

Wednesday, November 4
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Paul Laurence Dunbar High School
1400 Orleans Street

erica.green@baltsun.com

twitter.com/EricaLG

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