Posts tagged ‘CEO Dr. Andrés Alonso’

May 6, 2013

Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Alonso Announces Retirement

From my inbox:

Monday, May 6, 2013

Dear City Schools Partners and Friends,

I am writing to you today to let you know that at the end of the current school year, I will retire and leave Baltimore City Public Schools and this great city to return to my home in New Jersey to care for my aging parents and begin an academic position at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. It has not been an easy decision, because what we have accomplished together in recent years has been both important and extremely gratifying to me, professionally and personally. But life presents us with seasons, and it is time now for me to shift my focus.

I want to thank the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners for the opportunity to help lead this era of reform in City Schools and for its commitment to transformational change. But without your dedication to our kids, your incredibly hard work and your willingness to join me on this reform journey, we would not be where we are today, proud of many successes and poised to usher in the biggest reforms yet for our kids and the district.

With the recent passage of legislation that provides funding for our 10-year buildings plan—which could not have happened without you—the work to provide 21st-century buildings for our students is moving full-steam ahead. And we have laid the groundwork to roll out new academic standards next year, along with support and evaluation systems for teachers and school leaders to ensure the best possible teaching and learning for all of our teachers and students in every classroom, in every school. This next chapter in the transformation of our district will be the most critical yet, and I know you will continue to partner with City Schools to make sure it does its best work on behalf of our kids.

Starting July 1, City Schools Chief of Staff Tisha Edwards will serve as interim CEO throughout the 2013-14 school year, while the Board of School Commissioners conducts a search for a permanent CEO. Ms. Edwards has provided exceptional energy and leadership in the past several years, leading the implementation of key reforms and overseeing the day-in and day-out work of running the district. In partnership with you and our Board members and staff, she will build on the work we all started together. For the district’s formal announcement and statement regarding the transition, please see today’s press release.

Transitions can be hard, and they can be disruptive. But this is a timely transition; it is the right time for me, and it is the right time for the district. The district is poised for a new level of reform. Coupled with our clear focus on kids and the strength of current leadership, this momentum makes me confident the transition also will be a smooth one. I am handing my work over to an extraordinary individual who has worked alongside me for more than five years, to a great team here at the district office, to a supportive Board that understands the critical role of leadership throughout the district, to teachers and administrators who serve our kids in heroic ways every day and to an entire community—from our political leaders and fellow agencies to our advocates and parents—that continues to rally in support of the work we all have done together.

You have been essential to the progress of the last six years, and on behalf of City Schools, I thank you for your unwavering commitment to our students and their futures. I look forward to working with you for the next couple of months and to cheering from a distance as you continue to support and help guide City Schools in its work to ensure the success of our 85,000 tremendous kids.

Andrés A. Alonso, Ed.D.
CEO, Baltimore City Public Schools

Press conference will be live streamed at 1 p.m., here: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/education-channel-77

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January 13, 2013

This Week in Baltimore Education News

These are three of the stories that jumped out at me this week. Lots of room to opine, but I am biting my tongue. (Trying my best, anyway). I said I’d spend only an hour a week on this blog. (Trying on that score, too.)

Methadone clinic next to Margaret Brent Elementary/Middle?

Denied. No sooner than it was proposed, the appeal to the zoning board was dismissed because the woman who filed it didn’t show. Big sigh of relief from parents. Adam Bednar from North Baltimore Patch covered the story:

Methadone Clinic Proposed Near Charles Village School, January 7, 2013

Zoning Board Dismisses Methadone Clinic Request, January 8, 2013

My questions: Who represents our public schools in cases like this one? Is it up to school administrators? Where is the school district in all this? And the city, which owns public school buildings? Or is it the sole responsibility of civic organizations and PTOs? Lucky for Charles Village parents, they have a strong neighborhood association and their schools have the complete support of the good people at Greater Homewood Community Corporation. The fact that the applicant didn’t show was a stroke of good luck. But what would have happened if she had?

Michelle Rhee tangos between limelight and hot seat

Michelle Rhee’s career should matter to everyone in Baltimore because it was Harlem Park Elementary/Middle that gave this notorious education reformer her start. Rhee made news this week in two ways, proving yet again her media savvy:

1)  “The Education of Michelle Rhee” aired on PBS’s Frontline, January 8, 2013.

2) The national organization Rhee runs, Students First, put out their 2013 State Policy Report Card.

For coverage and criticism, see:

11 States Get Failing Grades on Public School Policies From Advocacy Group, Motoko Rich, New York Times, January 7, 2013

Michelle Rhee’s new state reform report card, Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, January 7, 2013

RheeFormy Logic & Goofball Rating Schemes: Comments & Analysis on the Students First State Policy Grades, Bruce D. Baker, School Finance 101, January 9, 2013

The Transform Baltimore campaign for 21st century city schools buildings forges ahead

No one who cares about education in Baltimore was watching Frontline on January 8, because something more exciting – and hopeful – was going on down on North Avenue. As BCPS CEO Andres A. Alonso, Ed.D. reported in a mass email:

Tonight, the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners voted to approve the 10-year plan we proposed in November to overhaul and modernize our entire portfolio of school buildings. Over 10 years, this plan will renovate or replace 136 school buildings, vacate 26 school buildings, relocate 12 school programs and close 17 school programs. And when complete, our students will be in the 21st-century learning environments they need and deserve, and that so many of their peers in school districts across the state and nation already enjoy.

For coverage, see:

City school board OKs 10-year facilities plan: it will rely heavily on persuading lawmakers to approve measure, Erica L. Green, Baltimore Sun, January 8, 2013

The Sun piece reports that Jimmy Gittings, president of Baltimore’s principals union, is not on board with the focus on buildings. He is concerned about the District’s mismanagement of funds. He has given voice before to his concerns about principal firings and the principal turnover rate. (In 2011, the Sun reported that only one quarter of principals remained of those who were in place when Alonso was hired.) Good that the principals’ union isn’t behind new buildings? No. Good that it’s keeping the pressure on about the destabilizing effects of high principal turnover? Yes. (It is really, really hard  to build trust with a public school principal in this climate. Maybe even harder than it is to build a new school.)

That aside, thanks to the good work of a lot of good people, the state of our school buildings is an issue engaged citizens can actually do something about. To take action, check out the new Transform Baltimore website. Buses are heading down to Annapolis for a major rally February 25, 2013. And they need some bodies to fill seats at some meetings between now and then. The website says it all. Do something.

October 12, 2012

Is Teacher Quality a Bigger Influence Than Poverty? New Joel Klein Biography Sheds Some Light

New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visit
with students at Explore Charter School in Brooklyn, N.Y.
By U.S. Department of Education [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons

Joel Klein may be the mastermind behind the meme that teacher quality, not a student’s socioeconomic status, is the biggest predictor of academic success. He has used his own streets-to-riches story to make the case.

In the November/December issue of The American Prospect, Richard Rothstein turns Klein’s argument on its head by telling a very different story of how Klein grew up. It’s a must read.

I suggest you start here, at the Economic Policy Institute blog, with Richard Rothstein’s own introduction to his piece. He maps out the thinking behind it. He also underscores the story’s emphasis on the role of public housing policy in segregating American cities. The impact of housing policy on public education is something no teacher can unwind. (This is as good a place as any to plug Antero Pietila’s book, Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped an American City, which untangles the history of racism, redlining, and white flight in Baltimore.) If Joel Klein succeeded because he did not grow up among poor minorities, then there has to be more to improving outcomes for American public school children than firing bad teachers. City planning, zoning, and housing policy all need to be part of the conversation.

You can read the article itself here: Joel Klein’s Misleading Autobiography: What the former chancellor of New York City schools’ sleight of hand tells us about education reform. You might also get something from this piece, “Joel Klein’s Hidden Legacy” by PBS education correspondent John Merrow, which traces Klein’s influence on American public education and education reform. That influence is multiplied by Klein’s former deputies,  Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Andres Alonso among them.

October 11, 2012

Shock and Audits: Clocking Five Days of Baltimore City Public Schools News

I offer the following timeline of publications with no comment:

Saturday, October 6, 2012, 3:35 p.m.
The Baltimore Sun publishes City schools criticized in financial audit: Legislative audit from 2010 finds millions in uncollected debts, unjustified payouts, unreported conflicts of interest by Erica L. Green.

Monday, October 8, 2012, 11:41 a.m.
Andres A. Alonso, Ed.D., Baltimore City Public Schools CEO, sends out a mass email with the subject line, “First External Evaluation of Major City Schools Reform.” The email, which is addressed to City Schools Colleagues, Staff, Partners and Friends, summarizes the findings of a report by Education Resource Strategies on Fair Student Funding. The report had been released to the public on September 6, 2012.

Later that day, at 9:23 p.m.
The Baltimore Sun publishes Schools audit alarms state, city lawmakers by Julie Scharper.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012, 3:14 p.m.
The Baltimore Sun publishes Mayor calls on Alonso, school board to fix broken financial management: Rawlings-Blake said lack of public confidence could hinder Annapolis funding campaign by Erica L. Green.

Later that day, at 7:56 p.m.
The Baltimore Sun publishes this: City to pilot new evaluations for all teachers: New model will include student performance, by Erica L. Green.

Thursday, October 11, 2012 (Today), 12:05 p.m.
Andres A. Alonso, Ed.D., Baltimore City Public Schools CEO, sends out a mass email with the subject line, “2012 State Audit of City Schools: Findings and Actions.” The email, which is addressed to City Schools Colleagues, Staff, Partners and Friends, is intended to share the results of second audit of Baltimore City Public Schools by the Maryland Office of Legislative Audits (OLA), which you can download here. The email notes that “the state restricted the district from commenting on the audit and any of its findings until today’s release.”

April 29, 2012

Ten Things You Should’ve Read About Education This Week (in case you haven’t already)

Illustration from 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica. Original caption: Fig. 1.–Fruit of the pine-apple (”Ananas sativa”), consisting of numerous flowers and bracts united together so as to form a collective or anthocarpous fruit.

This is one of those weeks where there was too much going on to reflect. So, I collect:

1. Housing Policy and Educational Opportunity: Some Notes, Rachel Levy, All Things Education blog, April 24, 2012

If you’re interested in the questions that come up in the debates around zoned versus citywide elementary schools – issues about access and prohibitive housing costs and the importance of socioeconomic diversity to student achievement – this is chock full of important links. (Loosely related to this was a piece in the New York Times about a housing fight in Texas. Then there’s this, on political discussions in Washington, D.C., about whether charters schools can be neighborhood schools. (I don’t have time to connect the dots at the moment.)

2. Believing in City Schools, Adam Bednar, North Baltimore Patch, April 26, 2012

The Village Parents have been models of active citizenship when it comes to informing the community about the public school options in Charles Village. This week they brought a panel of parents from Roland Park, Mt. Washington, and Federal Hill – attractive neighborhoods with zoned elementary schools that have managed to lure scores of middle and upper-middle class families into their classrooms – to tell their stories. It was a great small event. Glad Adam Bednar was there to cover it. (There are obvious connections between this story and the housing concerns in the previous post, but I’ll leave that for another day.)

3. As school facilities crumble, executive suites get remodeled, Erica L. Green, Baltimore Sun, April 26, 2012

After the heady effects of the Village Parents event, this story was a downer. The District spent $500,000 on renovations to the central office, half of which went to spruce up the executive suite of the chief of information technology. This story comes against the backdrop of a push to raise $1.2 billion – a fraction of the total needed – to fix crumbling public schools. City Schools CEO Andres Alonso chalked it up to “a bad judgment call.” Right. The story makes me question my willingness to work within a system whose leaders’ have their priorities so crooked. I’m sure I’m not alone.

UPDATE: BCPSS Chief of Information Technology Jerome Olberton resigned his post in January 2013 and took a $185,000 chief-of-staff position in the Dallas public school system.

4. Critics seek more oversight of renovations at school district headquarters, Erica L. Green, Baltimore Sun, April 27, 2012.

City Schools advocates who have to fight for funding in Annapolis have more to be disappointed about than I do. The choicest part of this follow-up piece is where the chief information officer, Jerome Olberton, explains himself by claiming that the reason he needs to improve his department’s work space is to attract more highly qualified applicants. Um, to ask the obvious, how about upgrading school facilities to attract highly qualified teachers?

5. The suite life on North Ave., Sun editorial, Baltimore Sun, April 29, 2012

As a follow-up to Erica Green’s breaking news story, the editorial board weighed in with their view on why the allocations were “more than just bad judgment.”

6. Politics and Education Don’t Mix, P.D. Thomas, The Atlantic, April 26, 2012

News of the crazy renovation expenditures for North Avenue got my mind singing a refrain that’s been in the back of my head for a long time. It goes like this: “It’s the Bureaucracy, Stupid.” I have yet to write that post. Thomas’s opinion sort of takes care of it for me.

7. PD, Jess Gartner, jessgartner.com, April 22, 2012

The newest voice in Baltimore education blogging belongs to Jess Gartner, a teacher who has way more than the average level of commitment to her students. She took on Professional Development a week ago. Ms. Gartner is optimistic about the potential of the Common Core Standards to give teachers more autonomy. She is also far more positive than I am about the potential of the free market to solve problems that I would argue are of the free market’s own making. I commented with a note on Pearson, the educational content powerhouse that is making the kind of tailored instruction that Jess Gartner imagines a difficult dream to realize. She commented back. More on that below.

8. Mass Localism for Improving America’s Education, Yong Zhao, April 24, 2012

I think Jess Gartner would like this post. God knows I do. It talks about creativity, about autocratic rule, about radical localization of decision making. It should be required reading for anyone who works at North Avenue. Especially the ones at the top who moved here from New York and Boston and Atlanta via the Dallas/Fort Worth area and… you catch my drift. Is it me, or is Baltimore run by out-of-towners?

9. A Very Pricey Pineapple, Gail Collins, New York Times, April 27, 2012

Picking up on that Pearson thread I brought up earlier was Gail Collins, who uses a pineapple as a juicy pretext for talking about privatization of public schools. The topic is a yawner otherwise, isn’t it?

10. New York’s Bargain Basement Tests, Diane Ravitch, Diane Ravitch’s blog, April 28, 2012

Diane Ravitch started her own personal blog this week. In this post, she explains the appearance of said pineapple in a test item on a New York state test that Pearson had produced, originally for Texas. Pearson seems to be the goose that laid the golden pineapple.

SPECIAL BONUS: The Common Core: The Technocracts Re-engineer Learning, Anthony Cody, Education Week Teachers’ “Living in Dialogue” blog, April 27, 2012

Like everyone else who reads opinions online, I gravitate toward those that articulate what I already believe. I try to do more than that – to read people I disagree with, to argue with people I wish I agreed with, to question my own positions, which are highly flexible on all but my worst days. This piece articulated all my misgivings about the Common Core. It also made me want to move to Nebraska, a state that held out against No Child Left Behind because its education commissioner values local-level initiative. Just like me. (Not that I have anything against imported fruit.)

November 13, 2011

CEO Andrés Alonso Promotes the Push for School Choice in Baltimore City

CEO Andrés A. Alonso, Ed.D., sent out an email on November 9 with the subject line “Great Event: Please Join Me on Saturday November 19!” It’s the School Choice Fair. And it’s his favorite.

This is my favorite City Schools event because it offers a glimpse—like no other occasion or news release can—into the incredible range of learning opportunities available to our students and families, and into the nature of our partnership with our families around the choices they make. More than five dozen schools with middle and high school grades will be on display, with students and staff on hand to answer your questions and provide detailed information about their programs.

Come to the fair and learn about single-gender schools and combined middle-high schools, and dozens of schools with a unique theme or distinct academic focus: schools with visual and performing arts programs; career programs in health care, hospitality and broadcast production; STEM (science, technology engineering and math) and robotics programs; foreign languages; environmental and green themes. Find out where students can go to develop leadership skills, join debate teams and learn to play chess from national champions. Come celebrate with me—and with students and families across the city—the great things happening in City Schools.

Readers of this blog already know that I have a lot of questions about the push for school choice. (You can read the “If the School Fits” series I posted back in the summer, starting here.) But I’d love to hear from parents of middle school and high school students who are loving this whole push. (And those who aren’t.)

Do you want options? If so, how many? Is an event at a baseball stadium – with representatives from 65 schools – intimate enough? Or would you rather have one-on-one or small group middle and high school choice advising sessions at your current school?  Say, someone who knows your child’s interests and abilities? Is there someone at your school who does that? Does it even matter? Will your children just go where their friends go? Or where your friends are sending their children? Or wherever is closest? How old was your child when you started to think about middle and high school options?

All comments welcome.

Edit

P.S. For those who are interested, the 2012-13 School Choice Fair is scheduled for Saturday, November 19, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Related Posts

If the School Fits: Opening a Conversation About School Choice in Baltimore

If the School Fits: The Hospital Analogy

If the School Fits: Who’s Pounding the Drum?

If the School Fits: Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Choice?

“Portfolio”: The Vocabulary of Education Reform in Baltimore City – Lesson One 

 

 

November 4, 2011

Re:education in Baltimore – Fishbowl Edition

I wrote a new post for this week based on a selection of articles and op-eds I’d read over the past two. Here are the links:

Alonso plans to close schools that are underused, dilapidated
Specific list hasn’t been finalized
By Erica L. Green
The Baltimore Sun
October 14, 2011

Why smaller is better
Our view: Consolidating students in fewer buildings makes the best use of the city school system’s limited resources
Baltimore Sun – Editorial
October 18, 2011

A big build for city schools
Creative bond financing proposal could infuse billions into Baltimore for school construction and renovation
By Heather R. Mizeur and Thomas E. Wilcox
Baltimore Sun – Opinion
October 25, 2011

Study Warns of Limited Savings from Closing Schools
By Christina A. Samuels
Education Week 
November 1, 2011

I called my 600 word post  “Pointless Silos, or Will Rebuilding Baltimore City Public Schools Mean Shutting Some Down?” – and it was published today on the local website Baltimore Fishbowl. Check it out.

June 12, 2011

“Portfolio”: The Vocabulary of Education Reform in Baltimore City – Lesson One

When I first read the term “portfolio” in an official document put out by the Baltimore City Public School System, I pictured an artist’s portfolio. Then my brain did a little Rubik’s cube turn. The word wasn’t coming out of the art world. It was borrowed from the world of finance and investing.

The document bears the name of Andrés A. Alonso, Ed.D., Chief Executive Officer.

Pause there: Chief Executive Officer. Alonso is CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools. Call a school superintendent a CEO and, just like that, you turn a government entity into a corporation. The highest aim isn’t to do whatever it is your office is responsible for doing – in this case, educating a city’s young people. It’s to turn a profit.

What’s in the BCPSS portfolio? Schools. Our CEO is keeping the ones that perform and dumping those that don’t. What constitutes “performance,” at least right now, isn’t measured in dollar gains and losses. It’s measured in test scores – the currency of the public school market. Its measured in the percentage of students who are passing state tests.

Critics of education reform – the most outspoken of whom has been education historian and policy analyst Diane Ravitch – say testing and choice are undermining the American public school system. Whether or not you’re a fan of test-based accountability or vouchers or the charter school movement (or even of Diane Ravitch), it’s difficult to argue that test scores say very much about what’s gone on in a particular classroom. What is clear is that performance on tests is being used to justify significant decisions about whether or not to close individual schools and give merit pay to individual teachers.

In Baltimore City, more than two dozen public schools have been closed since 2007 with more slated for closure. An even higher number of charter schools have been founded. And some of them have been closed.

My question isn’t whether those closures were needed. My question is whether we’re using the right metaphor. Are schools stocks? Is the system a portfolio?

In the world of investing, ads for mutual funds, stocks, and bonds are always accompanied by this caveat: Past performance is no guarantee of future results. It’s a warning to investors – especially beginner investors – to resist the impulse to chase high returns. (Click here for a primer on “performance chasing” by Joshua Kennon.)

It would be great if school system CEOs would repeat that to themselves like a mantra. As “stakeholders” in the education of our children and our nation’s public, we might want to repeat it to ourselves, too. Here’s how that might sound:

  • Think it’s a good idea to close a school because passing percentages are low? Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
  • Tempted to weight your portfolio toward charter schools because a few have raised test scores dramatically and seem to have narrowed the achievement gap? Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
  • Won’t look at your neighborhood public school because only 85% of students are proficient in reading? Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

If these analogies don’t work, it’s because the public school system is not a portfolio. Schools are not companies. Test scores are not currency. Though it has become serious business to think as if they are.

Diane Ravitch’s The Death and Life of the Great American School System gives an account of when American public school leaders started thinking this way. It’s an important book to read right now. Hers is an important voice. But it’s up to us – parents and guardians, students and teachers, principals, taxpayers, school system employees and advocates for reforms that work for all students – to evaluate whether treating our public schools like stocks is a good idea.

What do you think?

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