Stephanie Okonkwo


BCPSS Teacher Responds to Proposed School Closings

Photo via the Roots and branches website.
Photo via the Roots and branches website.

Over the weekend, I received an email from an assistant teacher at the West Baltimore Public Charter School Roots and Branches.  The school is one of five that Baltimore City Schools CEO Gregory Thornton has recommended to close at the end of the school year.  The email read, in part:

Students, parents, and staff are heartbroken because we know what a resource Roots And Branches is to the Sandtown-Winchester community, and the city at large. Roots And Branches serves the community that is economically unstable, and is known for having very high crime rates. We provide mental health support beyond that of many public schools, as well as offer a food pantry and vision and dental services. A portion of our students go home with a survival bag over the weekend with food from our pantry because they have shown that otherwise, they would not be eating.We do have issues such as spotty attendance and low test scores, but we are developing, and frankly, so do a lot of other schools in these neighborhoods.  I find it hard to believe that shutting down a school like ours will ameliorate the issue–rather it would only serve to crowd schools that are already packed and teach our students based on completely different methodology.

She asked that we publish her open letter to Dr. Thornton, below. -S.D.

To Mr. Thornton and To Whomever Else It May Concern,

My name is unimportant. But my story is vital, because it is the story mirrored in so many of the students served by this district, including students in some of the schools that you and your teams are lobbying to close.