It’s no real secret, Baltimore City Schools are in a state of decline. Parents looking for affordable options for educating their children here have very few options. My husband and I are vexed by the constant focus on teaching test taking skills, leaving poorly disciplined kids and kids with behavior problems among the well-behaved, and the mass exodus of qualified male teachers and administrators from the city school system. As a product of public education, I’ve been around long enough to know when things were good and when things were bad. Having educated our own children both publicly and privately, my husband and I thought we had a firm grip on the state of things in Baltimore City’s public schools. They’re mis-managed. But then, a funny thing happened to me on the way to drop my daughter off at Baltimore Polytechnic this morning for a shadowing day. While stopping by the Roland Avenue Starbucks, I ran into Professor, Gary Thrift. To those who have been around Baltimore’s public school system, you may remember Gary Thrift as an administrator who worked in the human
resources office at the BCPS headquarters in Baltimore City. Thrift left BCPS in 2007, during the Alonzo transitioning period. However, if you received a great education in Baltimore City and can’t remember the last time you felt as good about a city school, you know Gary Thrift from a different period, a period of time when schools were great. When I enrolled at Roland Park in the early 80’s I encountered Mr. Thrift, a strict disciplinarian and phenomenal mentor. My sisters and I were educated under Beasley, Thrift, and Harahand, an administration that stressed academics, insisted on respect, and handed out discipline without apology. While the names may sound like a prestigious law firm, the individuals were and are what is missing from the school system today. Students were taught and encouraged to learn and be responsible for the world around them. We weren’t instructed on how to take test. We were taught to respect vocabulary, and good writing, and expression. Great test scores were a consequence of the learning. As I exchanged pleasantries with Professor Thrift this morning I realized something from something he told us once; those who fail to learn history, are doomed to repeat it. Although it was probably a play on words back then, the meaning holds true; as a school system we are lost. We haven’t learned from our failures, we haven’t respected what we’ve learned from other countries whose school public school systems far out-shine our own, and we haven’t wanted for our children at least what we had. Why have we settled? Let’s ask some hard questions. For those who attended Roland Park, Baltimore Polytechnic, Baltimore City College, and Western High School, what happened? Western High is but a shadow of its former greatness. What happened? Baltimore Polytechnic’s tradition of hiring alumni to teach math and science to ensure great minds keep learning has all but disappeared. What happened? Baltimore City College now has a principle who’s more concerned with gender-bender day than with ensuring at least 99% of her graduates get into top colleges. What happened? Why have all the talented male teachers and mentors been systematically run out of schools, leaving our male students to look elsewhere for positive role models? What happened? Why don’t we think our kids deserve better? Why is it, the city spent more time giving School CEO, Alonzo a raise than they did in ensuring our kids had books? What happened? Where are the John Crew Sr. types and where are their children, many of whom were educated in the BCPS system but who have not stepped up to ensure those who came behind them got the same quality. Oh Professor Thrift, had I known the path BCPS would take, landing us in this questionable place, worrying about the education of our kids, I would have never let go of your hand when you handed me my diploma all those years ago. For losing you and those like you is symbolic of BCPS losing its values and deciding that our children don’t deserve better. The sad part; we don’t know how to get back to the place where learning and discipline are true priorities and I fear, many have stopped looking.
- Audit: Baltimore City Public Schools Playing Fast and Loose with Public Funds (reason.com)
- Cafeteria Man Tony Geraci: hype or hope? (educationviews.org)