Florida Administrator Named To Top Schools Post in Baltimore

By John Gehring — June 21, 2000 2 min read

After a three-month search to replace the Baltimore schools’ departing chief executive officer, the city school board has selected a new top administrator to lead the 107,000-student district.

Carmen V. Russo, 64, an associate superintendent in Broward, County, Fla., will begin work July 5. She will replace Robert Booker, the current CEO and a former finance officer for the Los Angeles schools who announced six months ago he would leave at the end of this month after serving since July 1998.

School board members, who want to focus more on improving student achievement in the upper grades, said they were impressed with Ms. Russo’s ability to turn around low-performing high schools.

She began her career as a New York City teacher, and as a principal in the mid-1980s she helped improve test scores and morale at Morris High School in the Bronx. She was appointed the chief executive of New York City high schools in 1990.

Since 1997, Ms. Russo has served as the associate superintendent in the 230,000-student Broward County system, which includes Fort Lauderdale.

“I am very excited to have been selected for the position,” Ms. Russo said in a written statement. “I look forward to being part of the reform efforts taking place in Baltimore.”

Ms. Russo will become only the second woman to lead the district. She said her goals include building better relationships with community and parent groups and tightening financial oversight in the system. The district’s chief financial officer recently resigned after disclosures of improper contracting procedures.

Funding Dispute Renewed

On June 9, the same day the announcement of Ms. Russo’s selection was made, the Baltimore school board renewed a legal dispute with the state of Maryland over funding for the district. The board filed a petition in a circuit court in Baltimore seeking at least $49 million more each year from the state. The board’s latest action follows a lawsuit filed against the state in 1994 by the school board and the American Civil Liberties Union. In 1996, the case was settled when the city and the state agreed to enter into a partnership in which the state would give the city schools $254 million in additional aid over five years. In return, the state received greater control over district decisions and operations.

Under that settlement, the state also agreed to consider new requests for money this year. A consultant’s report issued in January concluded that the city schools, which have an annual budget of $829 million, need an additional $260 million a year.

The school board and the ACLU claim in their latest petition that the state has failed to live up to its obligation to support the schools. The motion was filed after settlement negotiations broke down.

“The educational fortunes of our children should not rise or fall depending on what district they are in,” said Susan Goering, the executive director of the Maryland ACLU.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Parris N. Glendening said the governor, a Democrat, was disappointed that the school board had filed the motion.

A version of this article appeared in the June 21, 2000 edition of Education Week as Florida Administrator Named To Top Schools Post in Baltimore