Crash course

Buckle up and hold on. Not only has Baltimore's schools chief Andres Alonso pushed through plans that would slash the number of his district's central-office jobs, but he also won approval last week to create five new combined middle/high schools (which will be run by outside operators) and require the staff at three other Baltimore schools to reapply for their jobs. In addition, Alonso put forth a budget that diverts money from the central office to classrooms and that allows principals to manage their own schools' dollars. His strategy is to plow forward at full-steam. At a recent City Council meeting, he quoted the racer-car drive Mario Andretti: "If you're driving and you feel you're in control, you're not going fast enough." In urban settings, where the problems besetting schools are legion, it's often insufficient to tackle one setback at a time and plod along methodically. Big-city superintendents have short tenures, so if they want to see change happen, they need to do a million things at once. That's how Paul Vallas went about his work in Philadelphia, for example: "Do things big, do them fast, and do them all at once." Baltimore's schools demand such treatment, and Alonso appears determined to administer it. Let's hope he doesn't crash.

"Schools chief races ahead with initiatives," by Sara Neufeld, Baltimore Sun, March 16, 2008

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