Tag: baltimore city public schools

Baltimore City Schools Issue 150 Pink Slips

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closing schools
Baltimore City schools CEO Gregory Thornton

The layoffs city school officials talked about all spring just got real. More than 150 Baltimore City school district employees got notice that their position would be eliminated on Wednesday.

CEO: Teacher Layoffs Coming in Baltimore City Schools

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publicschBaltimore City Schools officials hinted that they had a major budget hole to close. Now that Superintendent Gregory Thornton has a plan to balance spending, he’s signaling that layoffs are likely ahead.

Baltimore to Steal Public Schools Chief from Milwaukee

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Photo by Mark Hoffman, via Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Greg Thornton. Photo by Mark Hoffman, via Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Baltimore City Public Schools’ search for a new CEO ends today with their decision to hire Greg Thornton, the current superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools, according to WBAL’s sources.

On the face of it, Thornton is well equipped to take over the position. Milwaukee’s school district is about the same size as Baltimore’s, with 78,000 students (to our 84,000 students) and a budget of a little over $1 billion (same here). Not only that, but Thornton oversaw enactment of a “major school facility plan” in Milwaukee, something we’re staring down the $1-billion barrel of, ourselves!

A Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article — written after he took over managment of Milwaukee Public Schools in 2010 — describes Thornton as “an optimistic sort who exudes energy and enthusiasm.” A WTMJ article from eight months later details his “losing battle” with “a micromanaging, fickle school board” that was preventing him from making changes necessary to raise up Milwaukee’s underperforming district.

Baltimore City Schools Alter Zero-Tolerance Weapons Policy

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Exhibit "A"

When Park Elementary second grader Josh Welch was suspended for biting his Pop-Tart into the shape of a handgun and waving it around back in March, “zero tolerance” began to look more than a little absurd. And now Baltimore city schools have revised their own zero-tolerance weapons policy to remove the automatic suspension for the possession of items such as toy guns, water pistols, and butter knives.

Even in cases that involve more serious weapons-that-are-not-firearms, principals are now required to try other avenues before suspension, such as a conference with parents. But school officials note that these alternative interventions do not preclude the use of suspension, even in the case of a first offense, if the principal deems it appropriate.

Johns Hopkins Helps Spiff Up Two Charles Village Schools

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Check out that cafeteria (pictured above)! It’s the new dining spot for the several hundred public school students who attend Charles Village’s Margaret Brent elementary/middle school, and it sure is spiffy… So spiffy, in fact, that it looks a lot nicer than what I remember of the basement cafeteria at Johns Hopkins’ Homewood campus. (I haven’t eaten there in a few years, so they may have installed their own colorful floor tiles in the meantime. But I have a sneaking suspicion they didn’t.)

Was Former Baltimore Schools Chief’s Contract “Overly Generous”?

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city schools CEO Andres Alonso

When Andrés Alonso announced his resignation as Baltimore school system CEO in May, he failed to give 90 days’ notice as outlined in his contract. The school board chose not to penalize him, and Alonso was able to cash out “unused vacation, sick, and personal leave days” for nearly $150,000.

If that amount makes you want to cuss, you’re not alone.

As reported in the Sun, Audrey Spalding, director of education policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and an expert on superintendent contracts, called the figure “surprising” and symptomatic of a contract that was lucrative “to the point of being irresponsible.”

Who Changed Students’ Failing Grades at a Baltimore Middle School?

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Yikes. At Booker T. Washington Middle School, teachers discovered that some final grades they assigned to their students were altered after the fact from failing to passing. In more than one instance, a 50 percent (which is as low as they’re allowed to go) became a 90 percent (which is, you know, kind of high).

City Schools Spent Federal Funds on Cruises, Makeovers, and Chicken Dinners — So What?

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school-great

A federal audit determined that Baltimore city schools misspent thousands of dollars of federal grant money during 2009 and 2010. That includes $4,352 from Title I funds spent on Inner Harbor dinner cruises for parents, staff, and volunteers, $2,413 spent on chicken dinners for 28 people, $1,336 spent on theater tickets for 30 people, and $500 spent on a makeover day for mothers and daughters.

The audit also found hundreds of thousands of dollars that may have been spent on legitimate expenses, but were poorly accounted for — incomplete time sheets, invoices with no description of services, that kind of thing.

As much as Republicans (and some Democrats) in the state legislature are using the findings as an opportunity to sneer at typical liberal spendthrifts who have squandered our hard-earned tax dollars (and on what? Makeovers?! Cruises?!), the reality is probably a little more complicated, and a little less politically convenient.

Gun-Shaped-Pastry Control at Park Elementary?

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gun-pop-tart

I told you. They’ve just been biding their time, waiting for any excuse to seize our pop-tarts.

I missed this the first time around. A second-grader at Park Elementary was suspended earlier this month for — allegedly — biting at his breakfast pastry until it looked like a gun and making “inappropriate gestures that disrupted the class.”

City Teachers Paid Thousands of Dollars to Reduce Suspensions

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empty-desk

Baltimore City schools have got a suspension problem — over 10,000 suspensions a year, district-wide. And that’s particularly an issue when you look at the link between out-of-school suspensions and test scores. On the 2012 Maryland School Assessments, “students who attended school regularly scored 22 percentage points higher in math and 17 percentage points higher in reading.”

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