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.