Wednesday, December 1, 2010

BCP Fall 2010 Newsletter

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This issue includes...

What is the Purpose of Public Education?
In this issue we ask Collington Square School kindergarten teacher Delores Scott and Hampstead Hill Academy seventh grader Ava Anderson about the purpose of public education.
View the video of BCP's recent Purpose of Public Education forum

Welcome from Executive Director Jack J. Pannell, Jr.
Executive Director Jack Pannell writes about BCP's inaugural Fall Assembly, which featured a keynote by Baltimore City Schools Chief Academic Officer Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises.

David L. Holder Education Foundation Grant
We would like to thank The David L. Holder Education Foundation for awarding BCP a grant of $10,000 to fund the Patterson Park Inter-School Soccer League for the Fall of 2011.

Jean and Sidney Silber Foundation Grant
We would like to thank The Jean and Sidney Silber Foundation for awarding BCP a grant of $10,000 to support Saturday School at City Springs School and Collington Square School.

The Importance of School Leadership
BCP Director of Academic Affairs Jon McGill writes about the importance of demonstrative instructional leadership for school success.

"Truancy Court" Helps Students Get to School on Time
A program established by the University of Baltimore School of Law lends a helping hand to City Springs students with attendance issues.

Living Classrooms Supports After-School Math Program
We would like to thank Living Classrooms Foundation for supporting City Springs School's 2009-2010 after-school math program, which had a remarkable impact on student achievement.

Etta Johnson New Principal at Collington Square School
In August 2010 Etta Johnson began serving as the new principal of Collington Square School. Mrs. Johnson has worked for Baltimore City Public Schools since 1995.

Collington Square's Fall Family Festival 2010
By Kimberly Goldsmith, BCP Financial Analyst
Collington Square School for the Arts hosted their Annual Fall Family Festival on Thursday November 3, 2010.

Cafeteria Man Features Hampstead Hill Academy Students
By Geri Swann, Hampstead Hill Director of Community Outreach
Hampstead Hill's commitment to healthy eating is well known. For more than five years, the school has had a food educator, organic garden, culinary arts club and community dinners. Now, Hampstead Hill is being highlighted in a new film called Cafeteria Man, by Richard Chisholm.
View a film clip at

Hampstead Hill Academy Leads the Way in Vision Screening
By Geri Swann, Hampstead Hill Director of Community Outreach
A recent report by The Abell Foundation highlighted Hampstead Hill Academy's outstanding student vision screening program.
Read the report at

Hampstead Hill Hosts CUBE Site Visit
By Geri Swann, Hampstead Hill Director of Community Outreach
The Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) held their national conference in Baltimore City last month. Hampstead Hill was one of just two high performing schools highlighted during site visits for participants.

Bryn Mawr Students Visit Hampstead Hill
By Geri Swann, Hampstead Hill Director of Community Outreach
On Thursday, September 23rd eleven students from the Bryn Mawr School spent their morning doing community service at Hampstead Hill Academy.

Wolfe Street Students Save the Bay
By Maura Farrall, Wolfe Street Academy Fourth Grade Teacher
Wolfe Street Academy students and staff and volunteers from Accenture came together on October 11, 2010 to begin six projects critical to the health of Baltimore City and the Chesapeake Bay.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bill Ferguson Visits BCP Schools

Senator-elect Bill Ferguson visited three BCP schools this week: City Springs School, Hampstead Hill Academy, and Wolfe Street Academy.

At City Springs Senator-elect Ferguson met with parents, who shared their views on public education and their desire for a new sports field next to the school.

Bill Ferguson is the Senator-elect for Maryland’s 46th District. He is a teacher, a public servant, and a citizen of the 46th District. Senator-elect Ferguson came to work for Baltimore City Schools through Teach for America - Baltimore City.

He began his working life teaching U.S. history and U.S. government to ninth and tenth graders in a breakout academy of the old Southwestern High School, historically one of Baltimore’s most challenged high schools. While teaching, Senator-elect Ferguson also earned his Masters of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) from the Johns Hopkins School of Education in 2007.

Photos by Ms. Sonya Hughes:
1. Senator-elect Ferguson with City Springs School parents and staff.
2. Senator-elect Ferguson with Mr. West and Mr. Garrison's 8th grade U.S. History class.

David L. Holder Education Foundation Supports BCP

The David L. Holder Education Foundation has awarded BCP a grant of $10,000 to fund the Patterson Park Inter-School Soccer League for the Fall of 2011.

The league includes City Springs School, Collington Square School, Hampstead Hill Academy, Patterson Park Public Charter School, and Wolfe Street Academy and serves students in grades two through five. The program is supported this year by two $5,000 Ravens All Community Team Foundation grants.

The soccer league has been an incredible success. The grant will cover transportation, uniforms, equipment, coach stipends, and allow us to expand the league to include City Springs School.

Last year the foundation awarded BCP an $8,000 grant to support the Hampstead Hill Hornets Girls Soccer Team, Boys Basketball Program, and an outdoor leadership experience at Genesee Valley Outdoor Learning Center.

We would like to thank the David L. Holder Education Foundation for their generous ongoing support.

About the David L. Holder Education Foundation
The David L. Holder Education Foundation was established in 2008 upon David’s untimely passing due to a rare form of non-hodgkin’s lymphoma. Although a mere 35 years at the time of his death, David left behind a tremendous legacy of community service, a passion for nature, and a commitment to public education.

In order to honor David’s memory and keep his passions alive, the Foundation will both continue to contribute to organizations that David cared about, and build new, enduring relationships and programs in the communities that he supported.

For more information visit:

Ravens Treat City Springs Students to Play 60 Game

The Baltimore Ravens have invited four City Springs School students to attend the Ravens’ Play 60 game on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010. Kaye Marie Lumayog, Joion Murphy, Desire Duzant, and Tra’kia Jackson were winners of the Amazing Race - Ravens Style, which was held at the Maryland Zoo.

"As the winners of our Amazing Race -- Ravens Style on Tuesday, Oct. 19, we know that... [these students] are extremely fit and worthy of such a reward," said Melanie LeGrande, Baltimore Ravens Director of Community Relations.

The students will be part of the in-game execution of the Ravens’ Play 60 program. Play 60 is the NFL’s movement for an active generation, encouraging youth to get active at least 60 minutes every day.

Each winning student will receive one ticket to the Ravens vs. Buccaneers game on Nov. 28 and be part of a pre-game, on-field experience. Each student will receive a Play 60 jersey and Play 60 shorts/sweats to be worn during the pre-game, when the students will join seven other local students and stand alongside Ravens players as they ready for the game.

We would like thank the Ravens for everything they do to support our schools.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Collington Square Teacher Koli Tengella Receives OSI Fellowship

Collington Square School theater arts teacher Koli Tengella has been awarded one of seven 2010 OSI-Baltimore Fellowships. Read more at:

Friday, November 5, 2010

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wolfe Street Academy Featured in City Paper

Today's Baltimore City Paper features Wolfe Street Academy's outstanding Community School program in an article about Baltimore Community Schools:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ravens host City Springs student at Maryland Zoo

By Yeganeh June Torbati, The Baltimore Sun
7:13 p.m. EDT, October 19, 2010

The usual stars of the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore — the wild cats, hulking elephants and graceful cranes whose habitats are re-created on the grounds — lost some of the spotlight Tuesday to the players, cheerleaders and mascot of the Baltimore Ravens, as the team and zoo played host to about 120 local schoolchildren for an annual community service event.

Tuesday was the NFL/United Way's annual "Hometown Huddle," a leaguewide day of service, which this year is focused on combating childhood obesity by getting kids to be more active.

The fourth- and fifth-graders from City Springs Elementary School were invited by the Ravens to participate in the day's event, based on the CBS reality show "The Amazing Race," which features pairs competing in a race around the world. The kids made their way in the morning to various stations set up around the zoo's grounds, where they were challenged to waddle like penguins, build a nest in the zoo aviary, and mimic a crane's mating dance.

Melanie LeGrande, the Ravens' director of community relations, said she chose City Springs after interacting with principal Rhonda Richetta and a group of students in September. The team hosted the group at a home game as part of its Honor Rows program, which recognizes youth groups doing community service work.

"We saw how well-behaved the kids were," LeGrande said, which led her to choose them for the day's event.

The students returned to their school in the early afternoon, where Richetta said they were eagerly showing her their new athletic sneakers — provided by Under Armour, an event sponsor — and telling her all they had learned. Richetta said just being picked up by the coach buses sent by the team was a treat for the youngsters.

"Being treated like they're special is a really good feeling for them," Richetta said. "It makes them love to come to school; it makes them recognize that doing the right thing and being respectful and being motivated to come to school pays off."

The students were guided through the exhibits by about 70 volunteers organized by the United Way.

The group led by Ravens wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh was one of the first to finish the race, which was followed by a picnic lunch. Houshmandzadeh said he enjoyed the scavenger hunt nature of the event, which led kids from station to station via deciphered clues.

"You can interact with the kids, and I like doing that," he said.

Houshmandzadeh, tight end Edgar Jones, Ravens cheerleaders and mascot Poe posed for pictures and signed autographs for the students and regular zoo patrons.

Upon finishing the race, City Springs fifth-graders Malik McNeely, 11, and Da'juan Settles, 12, reflected on the day's lessons in between collecting autographs. The two boys had gotten into a tiff during the race but had worked it out.

"We worked together, and we were positive," McNeely said.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wolfe Street Academy Featured in Baltimore Brew

The Baltimore Brew featured a wonderful article about student success and parent engagement at Wolfe Street Academy -

Friday, October 15, 2010

City Springs Participates in "Amazing Race"

The Baltimore Ravens will host The Amazing Race – Ravens Style on Tuesday (10/19) at The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. More than 100 youth from City Springs School will complete tasks that blend educational programming and physical activity incorporating Play 60, the NFL movement for an active generation. The event is part of the 2010 NFL/United Way Hometown Huddle.

Ravens players, including WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, will join team cheerleaders, Poe and close to 75 volunteers (from M&T Bank, Under Armour and United Way) in facilitating the race and guiding youth participants.

Selected youth (fourth and fifth graders from Baltimore’s City Springs School) will venture through various zoo exhibits, including Maryland Wilderness, The African Journey, The Arctic and Flocker’s Field, on a quest to complete tasks at designated stops. All participants will receive a special gift and take part in a celebratory picnic lunch at Waterfowl Lake.

This is the second consecutive year the Ravens have led youth through The Amazing Race – Ravens Style as part of the NFL/United Way Hometown Huddle, which unifies all 32 NFL teams in a collective day of service yearly.

To gain entrance to the zoo and for onsite media access (day of event only), please contact Jane Ballentine of The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore at (301) 332-1742 or

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Leading Minds Panelist Freeman Hrabowski on WYPR

9-28-10: Dr. Freeman Hrabowski on Maryland Morning

September 27, 2010

The Baltimore Curriculum Project’s Leading Minds series is hosting a discussion at Loyola University Maryland on Thursday. The topic? “What Do We Want—And Need—Our Children to Learn: The Purpose of Public Education.”

That’s a doozy of a question, and they’ve enlisted some strong thinkers to tackle it. One of the panelists is Dr. Freeman Hrabowski. He’s been president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County for 18 years. Time Magazine named him one of the country’s top ten college presidents, and his work with minority students earned him an honorary Harvard degree.

Today he shares his thoughts with Sheilah about public education–particularly, the role of parents.

The Leading Minds event starts at 4 p.m. on Thursday. Tickets are available online.

Dr. Hrabowski talked to Sheilah for about 45 minutes–he had a lot of intriguing takes on a lot of interesting subjects. Hear the whole interview:

Hampstead Hill Highlighted in Vision Care Report

Thousands of city students lack vision care, report says
Abell Foundation finds that thousands may have eyesight problems that are undetected and uncorrected

By Erica L. Green, The Baltimore Sun

12:20 a.m. EDT, September 27, 2010

Thousands of Baltimore students may have eyesight problems that go undetected and uncorrected because of inadequate funding in the city's school-based health system — a problem that leaves many of them at a disadvantage in the classroom, according to a report released Monday.

Sponsored by the Abell Foundation, the report titled "Why Can't Johnny Read?" found that many students are falling through the cracks of the city's school-based vision-screening program, a problem exacerbated by the school system's truancy challenges and its urban population.

"It's a problem everywhere, but it's worse in a poor, urban school system," said Joan Jacobson, who wrote the report. "It's possible for children to go through the Baltimore City school system who have never had their eyes tested, let alone received follow-up care."

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Jacobson said the report's findings underscore that the city's Health Department — which provides health services to Baltimore students — is limited in its ability to serve students. The report did not link its findings to student achievement data, but Jacobson said it is "obvious" that poor vision affects how students perform academically.

"You have to be able to see properly to do your work," she said.

State law requires the city to screen children when they enter school, and in first and eighth grades. Last school year, roughly 12 percent of the nearly 21,000 city students who were screened failed their vision tests, the report found. Only 17 percent of students who failed the test documented that they received follow-up care.

In the 2008-2009 school year, 15 percent of 24,000 students tested failed their vision screenings, and roughly half of those students documented that they followed up with a doctor.

The failure rate was higher in the 2008-2009 school year, the study noted, because a change in state law in 2008 no longer required that all sixth-graders be screened, a rule that the report recommends city leaders challenge.

The Abell Foundation, a Baltimore-based organization that researches and reports on city education issues, issued the study after analyzing Health Department data and conducting interviews with school principals and Health Department employees.

The report focused its criticism on the number of vision screeners at the Health Department. Nine screeners are responsible for students at 140 city schools, in addition to 1,600 private-school students, the study found.

The burdens on the small Health Department staff, the study found, make it less likely that screeners will follow up with the thousands of students who are absent when they are due to be screened, or track those who fail vision tests to ensure they receive glasses or corrective care.

In the 2008-2009 school year, 12 percent of students were absent on their designated screening day. Eight percent were absent in the 2009-2010 school year.

School system officials said the report validated anecdotal evidence that students in the city are suffering from a lack of vision care.

"The report gives us a level of clarity around the issue," said Jonathan Brice, executive director for the city schools' office of student support. "Now what we have to do is to work with our health provider and the community to find a way to have these kids' needs met, and put a dent in the number of students who have not been served."

Baltimore's recently appointed health commissioner, Oxiris Barbot, said the study brought to light inefficiencies that the school system and Health Department have to tackle together.

A pediatrician who came to the city in August after overseeing New York's school-based health care, Barbot said vision screening is "certainly an area where we have the opportunity to greatly improve."

"We can certainly introduce efficiencies into the system," she said.

Barbot said the Health Department would try to act on the Abell Foundation's suggestion to improve communication with school principals to ensure that students' phone numbers are updated so that their progress can be tracked. Up to 30 percent of students' phone numbers are invalid, the study found.

"We do recognize the importance of linking vision with good educational outcomes," she added.

Barbot said introducing technology to the vision-screening process is also an area the department will target. The Health Department's vision program is not computerized, the report noted.

"The health aide tracks the students from stacks of papers in her small East Baltimore office," the report said.

City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who heads the education committee, said she was concerned about the report's findings and would look to the health commissioner for guidance on the costs and processes of strengthening the school-based health service.

Clarke said she suffered from a lack of vision care for years, unable to make out leaves on trees until she finally received glasses in high school. She remembered failing at algebra because she couldn't see.

"I can certainly relate to the effect on learning, because if you end up in the back of the room, tough luck," Clarke said. "These screenings have to happen in school, if it's going to happen at all."

At least one city school has gotten it right, the report noted. Hampstead Hill Academy is highlighted in the report as exemplary in its efforts to ensure students' vision care. In the 2009-2010 school year, more than half of the school's students who failed their vision test were wearing glasses by the end of the year.

"We see it as a school-readiness issue," said Matt Hornbeck, Hampstead Hill's principal. "Just like you need breakfast and a clean set of clothes, you need to make sure that vision is a prerequisite for learning in school-age kids."

Over the years, the public charter school has allocated money to staffing a full-time nurse who can conduct and follow up on screenings, partnered with the Maryland Society for Sight, and even uses its budget to purchase glasses for students — sometimes two pairs, so the student can have an extra pair at school.

"It's pretty amazing, because you'll have kids who, clearly, things improve dramatically when they have the glasses," said Kathryn Sexton, an instructional support teacher at Hampstead Hill. "It makes a huge difference for these kids."

The full report on vision screening can be found under "publications" on the Abell Foundation website, at

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

BCP Principal Matt Hornbeck Responds to Fordham Foundation Report

Real reform is here: Despite what the Fordham Foundation thinks, the pace of change in Baltimore schools is dizzying

The Baltimore Sun
September 19, 2010
|By Matthew Hornbeck

Let's play a game. It's called "The Dozens." Usually it's played by elementary or middle school children, but adults can play too. It's about being clever, witty and harsh and ultimately winning — although what you win is often nothing more than fleeting satisfaction. The rules: You call me a name and then I hurl an insult back at you. Things escalate until one of us wins. It's definitely not based on evidence, but it can be fun — or end in a fistfight. Most of all, the goal is to play the game in front of a bunch of other people — in this case foundations and education policy shapers and makers. The crowd oohs and aahs at the increasingly mean-spirited taunts.

Fordham Foundation, you go first.

"You're great, but overbearingly authoritarian. You don't have a good mayor. Your state assessment is worthless. You don't like the cool problem-solver companies that a lot of our funders like. Your union is the devil. It's too hard to get a meeting with you to pitch new products. You are top down. I don't like Baltimore and neither do my friends."

You get the point. Let's stop the game there.

Those statements summarize a report just out from Fordham called "America's Best (and Worst) Cities for School Reform." This misleading, flimsy report gets many of the facts wrong. Based on anonymous conversations with a handful of local people, stereotypes of unions and a sloppy synthesis of older reports written about education systems and reform in Maryland, Fordham gets it wrong.

Words can hurt. The stakes are higher than hurt feelings. Name calling at this level has an impact on kids because it clouds and politicizes the conversation around student success. When Fordham uses its bully pulpit to bludgeon Baltimore City Schools under the auspices of criticizing state and city conditions for reform friendliness, it makes it harder to tell the true story of reform in Baltimore and Maryland. Our ability to engage in the national conversation around what works and can be sustained is hobbled by the rhetoric in this type of soft, biased study.

Baltimore City is not under mayoral control. We have a union. Charter schools are not their own local education agency in our state. Clearly, Fordham's team of researchers think there is a "right" answer to whether those things are good or bad, evil or pure, pro-business or anti-business.

Let's look at some facts. For the second year in a row, Education Week ranks Maryland's schools as No. 1 in the nation. Maryland was an early signer of new nationwide standards — the Common Core Standards. New, better assessments tied to the new standards will make students more internationally competitive and halt two decades of decline in the performance of American students.

Maryland was competitively selected to receive a quarter billion dollars in federal Race to the Top funds. The Maryland State Board of Education voted to make student achievement 50 percent of the annual evaluation for teachers and to extend the period before teachers receive tenure. There is a vibrant local foundation community supporting district level change and public/private ventures such as the Middle Grades Partnership. Local funders have ponied up millions in support of bringing dozens of outside operators to start 6th through 12th grade "transformation" schools. Parents have more choice in Baltimore City than ever before — there are 54 schools run by outside operators. Twenty-one of those schools opened in the last three years. All but four of the 33 charter schools in Maryland are in Baltimore City.

The speed of change and reform in Baltimore under CEO Andrés Alonso during the last three years has been startling and clearly not within the capacity of Fordham's team of researchers to capture.

Baltimore City doubled the number of Teach for America teachers this year. TFA has been a part of Baltimore for nearly 20 years. The Baltimore Teachers' Union was the only union in the state to sign on to the Race to the Top proposal, making it far more likely that we would win. Our teachers' union is fully engaged in cutting edge negotiations to change the way teachers are compensated, moving from a traditional contract to a knowledge and skills-based approach. In terms of quality control — another nebulous and metric-less measure Fordham looked at — 11 percent of teachers in Baltimore City were rated unsatisfactory last year. What other urban district has that kind of attention being paid to quality at the classroom level?

Most importantly the work is not top down. Change is real and for the long term in Baltimore City. We are emerging from a period of shifting enormous responsibility and autonomy — coupled with higher expectations — to schools. The next phase of the work is well underway and involves focusing the district on college readiness and other real-world measures that move beyond standardized testing. Curriculum is not top down either. So long as rigor and higher-level skills such as applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating are the goals, curriculum decisions are largely left to schools. Dr. Sonja Brookins-Santelises, our new, brilliant chief academic officer, is leading that charge. And Mr. Alonso — who can be deliberately authoritarian when he decides to — has publically said that he's committed to staying for 10 years. Consistency, stability and continuity are key tenets of the work.

In the first months of Mr. Alonso's tenure, he needed to fix a broken, inequitable and dysfunctional central system of funding schools. He wanted a school-based person to lead the effort to move more dollars and control to schools — away from the central office. As the principal of a conversion charter school, I led that work.

Under the Fair Student Funding initiative the question asked by dozens of school and central staff was not "What will the central administration give or leave to schools?" Instead, Mr. Alonso wanted everyone to know that the central administration exists to serve schools. The question became "What resources should schools leave at central administration and why?"

In 2007, more than $70 million previously held at North Avenue was pushed out to schools. For the first time, money followed the student. In the past two years, the funding work has been further refined with better guidance being provided to schools. There is a new case study on the funding work in Baltimore just out from Harvard's Public Education Leadership Program.

Mr. Alonso sends a clear signal that schools must be customer driven — parent and student focused. We are engaging parents like never before. After declining for 40 years, enrollment is up for the last two years. There are climate surveys given each year to each student and each family. Principals are required to engage their parents in the budgeting process and to present draft and final budgets to parents and school family councils.

When parents complain, Mr. Alonso freely gives out his e-mail address and responds to each complaint. However, two years ago his administration established a command center that routes concerns directly to principals and tracks the resolution. We have a new data system — School Net — just now online that will move us into the 21st century in terms of being able to see historical data on student records, performance and attendance.

The head of the principals union recently looked out across a large auditorium of principals and declared that he no longer knew very many of his members. This is nothing new to anyone who has been a part of the revolutionary work in Baltimore City. The word "entrenched" no longer applies to the leadership of schools in Baltimore. Change is happening.

In terms of the business climate, the district has been and is open to local and national operators such as Teach for America, New Leaders for New Schools and KIPP. A quarter of Baltimore's nearly 200 schools are run by outside operators, and a quarter of the 130 new principals in the last three years have been recruited and trained by New Leaders for New Schools.

Charter schools receive $9,424 per pupil, nearly double the amount provided five years ago. Charters are able to hire extra teachers, extend the school day and year, and substantially renovate their buildings.

Student outcomes are steadily improving in Baltimore City. Scores are up. There's a focus on academic rigor. Already the longest serving superintendent in Baltimore City since 1994, Mr. Alonso is building local capacity to sustain school reform efforts.

Fordham should serve up fewer bumper sticker findings that comport with their worldview and instead look — with open eyes — for where real change is taking place. Baltimore is open for business.

Matthew Hornbeck is in his 8th year as principal of Hampstead Hill Academy ( Hampstead Hill is a Pre-K through 8th grade public charter school serving 615 students in southeast Baltimore City. His e-mail is

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

JHU Gazette Features City Springs Science Outreach Program

The June 21st edition of the JHU Gazette featured a wonderful article on the City Springs Science Outreach Program.

Johns Hopkins University launched the program in October 2009. Every other month students and faculty from the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering visit City Springs School to give science presentations and conduct experiments.

Read more at :

Baltimore Women's Giving Circle Supports Wolfe Street Academy

We would like to thank the Baltimore Women’s Giving Circle at the Baltimore Community Foundation for awarding the Baltimore Curriculum Project a grant of $3,150 to support the Adult Spanish Literacy Program at Wolfe Street Academy.

For more information on the Baltimore Women's Giving Circle visit:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cali $wag District Visits Collington Square

Radio station 92Q brought urban teen sensations Cali $wag District to Collington Square School of the Arts for Carnival Day on June 3rd. The urban teen sensations from Ingleside, California taught students and teachers how to dance to their hit single “Teach Me How to Dougie.”

Watch the video:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Diane Ravitch on May 27th

NYU Research Professor of Education Diane Ravitch will talk about her best-selling, new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, on Thursday, May 27, 2010 from 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM at The Cathedral of the Incarnation.

For more information and to register visit

This event is hosted by the Baltimore Curriculum Project, PCAB, Urbanite Magazine. Media and program sponsors include WEAA 88.9 FM, The Marc Steiner Show, and the Johns Hopkins University School of Education.

Monday, April 19, 2010

City Springs Parents Fight for Health Center

Parents organize to fight school health center closures
Services are called a vital resource for students
By Erica Green, The Baltimore Sun

Dozens of parents filed through City Springs Elementary/Middle School on Friday morning to sign a petition to protest proposed funding cuts to the school's health center, a resource they say is vital to their children's well-being.

The charter school, which serves students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, is one of six that might have their school-based health centers cut next year to help close a $121 million deficit in the Baltimore budget.

"This is going to be devastating," said Sharone Henderson, president of the Parent-Teacher Organization at City Springs. "We're trying to teach our children, get them to school — we can't be the doctors and nurses in the school, too."

Several parents echoed Henderson's concern, offering examples of how important the health services are to their children.

"My granddaughter had eczema so bad, her skin looked like it was burnt — she needed cream every three hours," said Deloris Edwards. "How else would she get that?"

"The nurses are the first responders," said parent Chevella King. "If one our kids have a bad asthma attack, they'll be laying on the ground waiting for an ambulance … and they're usually late."

Henderson drew up the petition Thursday — which had about 150 signatures by Friday morning — after receiving word from City Springs Principal Rhonda Richetta that the school's 14-year-old health center was among those targeted for closure under Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake's proposed budget.The mayor's original budget included funding cuts to 11 of the 13 health centers. But in a revised budget presented by Rawlings-Blake on Monday, seven of the centers would be funded if the City Council approves a series of taxes and fees.

The city Health Department said it does not have a final list of which school health centers are slated for closure. "The city budget process is far from complete. Final decisions on changes at individual schools have not been made," said Brian Schleter, the Health Department's spokesman.

However, Richetta said she was informed Wednesday that her school, along with Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts, which shares a building with the Baltimore Talent Development High School; Baltimore Freedom Academy; Cherry Hill Elementary/Middle School; Dr. Carter G. Woodson Elementary/Middle; and the KIPP Ujima Village/Civitas Middle and High School, stand to lose their health centers.

In addition to the health centers, the city also proposed cutting its support for crossing guards and eliminating its funding of free bus passes for students. School officials said they would look to shift funds in the school system's recently adopted $1.23 billion budget to make up for some of the city's cuts.

However, the city did maintain its state-required support of nearly $200 million to schools this year.

"What we're seeing here is a reasonable approach where we're fully funding our obligation, but trying to work with the schools on cost-sharing," the mayor's spokesman, Ryan O'Doherty, said of the cuts.

School-based health centers are run by the city's Health Department and are staffed by certified nurse practitioners who offer treatment above and beyond what parents called "pop a pill and take a nap" services found in basic health suites, which are usually staffed by nursing assistants.

More than 90 percent of City Springs students are registered in the health center to receive care that includes daily breathing treatments for asthma, immunizations and prescriptions. About 100 students are on the school's "medical alert list," for potentially life-threatening illnesses. Parents also expressed concern that fewer health services would drag down the school's 95 percent attendance rate.

Parents at other schools are also in the process of organizing.

"Quite a few of our parents committed to doing whatever it [takes], but certainly some letter writing and a petition," said Matthew Wernsdorfer, principal of Civitas Middle/High School.
Wernsdorfer criticized the criteria used to determine the proposed closures, such as enrollment numbers. The Health Department used data from the past three years, and Civitas has only been open for two, he said.

"It's not a very proactive set of criteria of where the money's going to go," Wernsdorfer said.

But parents at City Springs said they would be proactive, as many walked out of the school with stacks of handouts displaying the names, photographs and phone numbers of all City Council members. Henderson said she and other parents, bedecked in their school colors, plan to testify at a May public hearing on the city budget.

"We are speaking for all the centers who are going to be closed," Henderson said. "This is for all of our kids."
Copyright © 2010, The Baltimore Sun

Friday, April 16, 2010

City Springs Needs its Health Center

City Springs Principal Rhonda Richetta talks about the proposed cuts to the school's health center in the following article from the Baltimore Sun.

School system forced to find funds for student services
April 14, 2010|By Erica L. Green, The Baltimore Sun

Principal Rhonda Richetta can vividly recall days when students have come to her office door at City Springs School gasping for air.

The school has a large population of asthmatic elementary- and middle-school-age students who receive critical services — including daily breathing treatments — from a nurse practitioner in its health center.

Richetta fears that could change next year if the school is one of six that are slated to reduce their health care services because of proposed funding cuts from the city.

"It's a vital resource, and I just can't imagine what it's going to be like if we have a school nurse whose hands are tied because they can't provide those services," Richetta said, adding that more than 100 students are on the school's "medical alert list" for potentially life-threatening illnesses. The center provides critical health care to about 36 students a day, she said.

The school-based health centers, run by the Baltimore City Health Department, are usually staffed with a full-time nurse practitioner who is qualified to provide asthma treatments, immunizations, hearing and vision screenings, and mental health and substance abuse treatment.

If the health center ia downgraded, nurses could do little more than hand out medicine and make a phone call to the student's home, Richetta said.

"I don't want to have to stand there with a child gasping for air waiting for the ambulance," she said.

Health services are just one area where Baltimore schools will be affected by a dire city budget. While the school system gets most of its $1.23 billion budget from the state, more than $200 million is due to come from the city.

In the most recent budget proposal from Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake, six of the 13 advanced health centers run in city schools would have to make do with basic services from a nursing assistant.

Additionally, the city has proposed cutting its contribution to crossing guards in half and eliminating funding for student bus passes.

That will force school officials to come up with $6.2 million to fund student transportation and a full force of crossing guards, and find ways to salvage some of the advanced services provided in health centers.

"We understand the dilemma that the city's in. … I think we're all in the same boat this year," said Michael Frist, chief financial officer for Baltimore schools.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hampstead Hill Academy Students Visit White House

On April 7, 2010 students from Hampstead Hill Academy met with First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House to talk about nutrition. Read the WJZ 13 article below.

City Students Talk Nutrition At White House

From WJZ 13
Jessica Kartalija reports, they were asked to weigh in on an important topic... getting students to eat healthier.

It's a special honor for students at Hampstead Hill Academy.

"Thirty of our students in grades four to eight, coming down, joining our food educator and me, for a town hall meeting with the first lady," said Matt Hornbeck, principal.

First Lady Michelle Obama invited the students to the White House to talk nutrition, and the kids at Hampstead Hill are experts on the subject.

They're already growing fruits, veggies and herbs in the school garden.

"I think it's a chance to showcase the integrated programming it takes to engage kids in making healthy choices," said Chrissa Carlson, Food For Life educator.

One fourth grader had the opportunity to ask the first lady a question.

"How would you think schools can show kids what they should eat and what they shouldn't eat while they're there," asked Kaila Grinspoon, student.

"Learning doesn't stop at lunchtime. The cafeteria is one of the most important classrooms in the school," said Obama.

"She was really nice, and I think she just totally agreed," said Grinspoon.

"She told me, and she said, thank you. And then she shook my hand," said Maia Reeb, student.

Now, the students and staff at Hampstead Hill want to invite the first lady to Canton.

"Come to Baltimore. Come to Hampstead Hill. We want you to see our garden," said Hornbeck.

The garden that teaches students how to plant, care for and grow their food.

"I was very proud of my school. I'm glad to be here," said Nathan Adams, student. "Baltimore is not a bad city, but it could do better. And this school makes a difference."

The first lady learned about Hampstead Hill Academy when the White House chef visited the school a few months ago. No word as to whether she has any plans to visit the garden.

The school is eligible for a $15,000 grant, and they need your vote.

Voting continues through April 18 and you can do it as many times as you want. For more information on how you can help the school win, click here.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hampstead Hill Garden Featured on WJZ-TV

Hampstead Hill Academy's organic garden and Food for Life program were featured on WJZ-TV Channel 13 yesterday. The program is one of the top 5 national finalists for a $15,000 "Green Heroes" award.

To vote for Hampstead Hill Academy visit:

To view the video visit:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hampstead Hill Academy among America’s Green Hero finalists

Hampstead Hill Academy, a Baltimore Curriculum Project public charter school, is in the running to be named America's Green Hero for its efforts to make East Baltimore a better – and greener – place to live.

The school's Food for Life program recently applied for the Green Hero grant through The Clorox Company, makers of Green Works natural cleaners, and Jane Goodall's Roots and Shoots program.

What makes this grant program unique is that winners are decided by a vote on Green Works' Facebook page.

Besides Hampstead Hill Academy, there are five finalists vying for the $15,000 first prize and $5,000 runner-up grants.

"This grant will make a big difference in our program, so we are encouraging everyone to vote every day," said Chrissa Carlson, Director of the Food for Life program.

Carlson said the school's grant proposal focuses specifically on connecting students with the larger green movement and bringing lessons to the students’ homes.

The Food for Life program teaches Hampstead Hill students, staff and community the broad impact of their food choices. Through its on-site organic gardening club, nutritious cooking classes, and community dinners Food for Life promotes an understanding of the natural world and resource conservation.

Hampstead Hill Academy is located in an ultra-urban, low-income community with few trees and yards.

“The school’s garden provides a safe haven for students and the community to study the natural world while offering families a source of fresh organic food and a respite from the harsh reality of urban life.” said Carlson.

Voting for the Green Hero ends on April 18 and the winners will be announced on April 22 or the date of Earth Day 2010.

David Kargas, senior group manager of public relations for The Clorox Company, said 398 schools, organizations and individuals submitted grant applications. Judges later cut the list down to 15 in three categories.

"Now it's up to 15 finalists and their supporters to get the word out and convince people to cast their votes and make them a Green Hero," said Kargas, in a prepared statement.

Votes can be cast at Facebook doesn't charge to be a member, and Carlson said voters only need an e-mail account to register.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wolfe Street Academy Featured in City Paper

Wolfe Street Academy is featured in a Baltimore City Paper article about the growing number of indigenous Mexican families in Southeast Baltimore:

"Connie Phelps, the Y of Central Maryland's community schools coordinator at Wolfe Street Academy, estimates that as many as 10 percent of the parents in the heavily Latino Fells Point elementary school speak an indigenous language, generally Mixteco. 'It seems to have happened quickly, in the last two to three years,' she says. Some of the parents speak enough Spanish to communicate with the school's Spanish-English interpreter, but others do not. In those cases, the school must pull in a parent who speaks both Spanish and Mixteco to translate."

Read the full article at:

Friday, March 12, 2010

Hampstead Hill Academy Principal on WYPR

Hampstead Hill Academy Principal Matt Hornbeck talks about No Child Left Behind on WYPR 88.1FM (March 12, 2010)

Matt Hornbeck, principal at Hampstead Hill Academy, will never forget a few years ago when his school failed to meet "Adequate Yearly Progress" that's government lingo for determining which schools are failures.

"In 13 of 14 categories, we met every goal, but in that one category, we did not. Twelve students passed and 13 needed to and that resulted in the entire school being labeled a failing school."

Hornbeck says the difference of one student's score gave Hampstead Hill the label.

"The worst thing is you get your name in the paper. And that really hurts."

Hornbeck turned things around before Hampstead Hill had to shut its doors. But every year he worries about the No Child Left Behind stigma.

Listen to the segment at:

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Hampstead Hill Academy Teacher Shaves Head for Haiti

When the earthquake devastated Haiti, students and staff at Hampstead Hill Academy pledged to raise money for relief efforts. Fourth-grade teacher Jonathan Swann went further, vowing to shave his head if the school could raise $2,500. The school did better than that, raising $3,500 for the American Red Cross. Friday was the payoff, so to speak, as school secretary Cynthia Warner shaves Swann's head to the shouts and cheers of the children.

From The Baltimore Sun, March 6, 2010
(Photo by Jacqueline Watts)

View the video here.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Give charter more time to succeed

Below is BCP Board Chairman George Hess' letter to the editor from today's Baltimore Sun.,0,2836886.story

The editorial "School board test," (Mar. 3) did not provide a complete picture of the issues related to the charter school renewal application for Dr. Rayner Browne Academy. Unlike most charter schools that are newly created, Rayner was an existing Baltimore City public school long before it became a charter school. The school was on the state's restructuring list because it was failing when the Board of School Commissioners approved the request of parents to convert the school to a charter school to be operated by the Baltimore Curriculum Project just two and a half years ago.

The conversion of existing, low performing schools is as difficult as it is unusual. While such turnaround schools are a primary focus of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan's Race to the Top competition, he and many others in the education community recognize that there is limited capacity to do this work nationally. Across the country, there are few organizations willing to do this work both because of the difficulty of the task and the time it takes to accomplish such reform.

Baltimore is fortunate to have a local non-profit committed to the work of turning around some of the most difficult schools in the city. The Baltimore Curriculum Project (BCP) is not only committed to this work but has demonstrated success in doing it.

Rayner is one of five schools operated by BCP. Between 2007 and 2009, the share of students scoring advance or proficient on the state test at the other four BCP schools has increased from 55 percent to 78 percent in reading and from 45 percent to 71 percent in math. Since BCP began working with its original three schools (City Springs, Collington Square and Hampstead Hill) at least eight years ago, reading scores at those schools have increased by an average of 66 percentage points.

The Board of School Commissioners approved BCP's method of educational reform at Rayner through the approval of their original charter application in 2007. Since BCP has operated the school for less than three years, BCP and the Rayner Browne community respectfully request at least two more years to achieve significant improvement.

George Hess, Baltimore

The writer is chairman of the Baltimore Curriculum Project board.

Send letters to the editor to

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

BCP Helps with AFP Funders Panel

On February 18th the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Maryland Chapter held an informative Meet the Funders panel discussion at the Junior League of Baltimore. The room was packed with development professionals eager to learn more about working with foundations.

Panelists included Brooke J. Hodges (Senior Vice President, Bank of America), Nancy R. Kutler (Vice President, The Center for Funds and Foundations at The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore), and Melissa Warlow (Program Officer, Baltimore Community Foundation).

Betsy S. Nelson (Executive Director, The Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers) gave an overview of the current funding climate and moderated the discussion. The panelists discussed how to develop long-term relationships and work most effectively with foundation staff before, during, and after grants are awarded.

Larry Schugam (Development Director, Baltimore Curriculum Project ), Jessica Schmidt-Bonifant (Development Director, Central Scholarship Bureau), and Kathleen Elliott (Philanthropic Services Officer, Baltimore Community Foundation) organized the event.

We'd like to thank Brooke Hodges, Nancy Kutler, Betsy Nelson, and Melissa Warlow for volunteering their time and sharing their expertise. We'd also like to thank Shelly Terranova (Director, The Junior League of Baltimore) and Stephanie Bartal (President, The Junior League of Baltimore) for graciously hosting the event.

About AFP-Maryland
AFP-Maryland's mission is to foster the growth and development of a culturally diverse population of fundraising professionals, enhance philanthropy by encouraging giving and volunteering, and promote ethics in fundraising and sound non-profit management throughout Maryland. To learn more and become a member visit:

About the Junior League of Baltimore
The Junior League of Baltimore is a volunteer organization for women interested in making a positive impact in their communities. Since 1912, the Junior League of Baltimore has been a driving force behind many of the initiatives and institutions that make our community strong.
To learn more visit: