Thursday, August 18, 2005

Rewarding Failure

This past Monday evening, the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners extended CEO Bonnie S. Copeland's contract for three years. An analysis of the contract by The Baltimore Sun reveals that the superintendent is being rewarded with a $40,000 pay raise this school year alone, followed increases of at least $10,000 annually. Such a generous contract makes us at the League wonder just what Copeland is being rewarded for.

It certainly isn't for her handling of special education. Just last week, U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis found the condition of special education services so appalling inadequate that he issued an emergency order giving state officials control over the program. The order was a direct response to findings that hundreds of hours of services were not met, but also speaks to the failure of the program to meet the needs of the most vulnerable population of the school system.

Can't be for creating safer environments. Last year was kicked off with a series of fires in different schools and violence continued throughout the year. Earlier this month, the Maryland State Department of Education designated sixteen city schools "persistenly dangerous," defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act as "a school in which each year for three consecutive years the total number of student suspensions for more than 10 days or expulsions for violent offenses equals 2½ percent or more of the total number of students enrolled in a school.”

And although test scores rose in the past year, the city itself acknowledged to journalists that it has not "reached where we want to go with our children."

Any objective analysis of her performance certainly shows that she shouldn't even be in her position, yet alone receiving a raise. Until an agreement between unions and the board was reached last month, teachers hadn't even received raises for three years. So why is Copeland receiving such a generous package? Its beyond us. Maybe the Board is taking lessons from President Bush's decision to keep Secretary Rumsfeld onboard after his miserable handling of the Iraq invasion: if you pretend everything is fine, everything will go swimmingly. This approach is an obvious failure: Iraq is in flames and so are, quite literally, the schools.

Rewarding Copeland for failure sends a strong message to the students and parents of the Baltimore City Public School System: You are not the priority.

from The League: Reassembled with revisions


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