Territorial disputes and neighborhood gangs should be the determining factor of any new school plan
In the 1989 hit ‘Field of Dreams’, Shoeless Joe Jackson (voice of Ray Liotta) said, “If you build it, he shall come”; which is commonly misquoted as ‘they shall come’; and this seems to be the mindset of our local leaders in Baltimore City, as they invest incredible political capital in unveiling a $2.4 billion strategy to revamp the city school buildings.
This valiant effort spearheaded by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, coupled with an expanding Vacants to Value housing program to revitalize 3,000 vacant properties throughout Baltimore, seems to be in line with the vision she laid out before the voters of Charm City last year – that ultimately seeks to attract 10,000 families by 2020. The daughter of one of the most savvy and intellectually respected politicians in the history of Baltimore, Rawlings-Blake has consistently raised doubts as to her family roots with policies that seemed aloof and mispirited at best; yet, in a town that has consistently been ranked one of the deadliest, dirtiest and most dilapidated urban cities in the country, these efforts should certainly be applauded and accepted – within reason.
Her misguided statement regarding parent concerns, about “people having emotional attachments to buildings, but we should have a stronger attachment to our children”, sounded good in theory; but based on it being the furthest thing from what these parents meant, it should be rethought and rescinded. What the Mayor and other educational officials are missing is, that while they close down these dilapidated buildings and move these children ‘across the tracks’, they will be possibly endangering the lives and physical safety of these children who will be entering an almost different time zone. Why? Well, anyone from say Park Heights knows that anyone from ‘up top’ coming ‘down bottom’ would be in a world of trouble, based on this being a city of neighborhoods that, as newly appointed police commissioner Batts has already figured out, is separated and controlled by its gangs. (See attached video where the Mayor confirms my point)
Therefore, any attempt to ship the kids from Northwestern over to let’s say Forest Park area, will have a safety issue before they even get to the educational one. And while the ‘Build it and they shall come’ theory sounds good on paper, and even while selling this plan to legislators who have absolutely no clue as to the street politics of Baltimore City neighborhoods; what it doesn’t answer is, what happens once they get there? Will they continue to get the same sub-par, secondary education we’ve seen lead to dismal test scores and illiterate graduates? Will our children’s behavioral problems all of a sudden disappear; or the gaping learning gap somehow magically dissipate? Most parents don’t think so, which is why you will see such reluctance to this move from any parent not affiliated with groups getting paid to see this happen.
School CEO Andres Alonso has said that ‘this plan is right for kids and necessary to take their progress to the next level’; yet, despite his greatest efforts over the past few years, no one in the African American community of Baltimore has much faith in his ‘plan of action’. And I’d be very interested to hear exactly what the kids believe is right for them, not some filtered version from an adult who tend to always think they know what’s best for children – without ever seeking their input? Closing 26-schools – after already shuttering at least ten in the past few years that I can remember – while ‘consolidating and renovating’ more than 100 more, may sound good as a sound byte or campaign slogan; but the reality of what these kids will be facing while these adults play ‘Russian Roulette’ with their education, should at least be taken into consideration by the 24-members of the Baltimore City delegation – and the remaining 157 state legislators.
Baltimore City remains the highest funded jurisdiction in terms of operational education dollars coming from the state of Maryland; yet, they consistently ignore their own children by decreased alternative and after-school learning funds while putting all their interests and finances into public safety. However, now they are asking those same state funders to give them more money to waste in school buildings, i.e. capital projects, that they themselves show no interest in investing in? I wholeheartedly agree with our children – as my son goes to city public schools – deserve the very best environment and resources needed to learn at the level of other jurisdictions; however, I – and probably a good majority of city parents – have absolutely no faith in our local leaders to see that plan become a reality. Just because someone offers you a shining new toy, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will remain shiny and operational for long; as another often repeated saying that I tend to live by is: ‘The pathway to hell is paved with good intentions…’
Townhall hearings set to seek public input on this NEW school plan will be held at the following locations – Make YOUR voice heard at:
Dunbar High – Saturday, December 1, 2012 – 10A-1:30p in the gymnasium
Frederick Douglass High – Tuesday, December 4, 2012 – 5-7P in the gymnasium
Digital Harbor High – Wednesday, December 5, 2012 – 5-7P in the cafeteria
Mervo High – Thursday, December 6, 2012 – 5-7P in the cafeteria
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