Private Firm To Manage Nine Schools in Baltimore

By Peter Schmidt — June 17, 1992 2 min read

The Baltimore City Public Schools last week reached a tentative agreement to turn over control of eight elementary schools and one middle school to Education Alternatives Inc., a publicly held company based in Minneapolis.

Walter G. Amprey, the superintendent of the Baltimore schools, announced June 9 that the district had signed a letter of intent to allow E.A.I. to manage the nine schools beginning in September.

“This is not privatization. We are not handing our schools over to the private sector,” Mr. Amprey said in announcing the agreement.

The superintendent described the agreement, rather, as a cooperative venture that will enable the district to continue its supervision of the schools while the Minnesota company takes over their day-to-day management, bringing in new education and business ideas.

The agreement, reached after more than a year of talks between the district and the company, is to go before the district board for final approval by July 15. District officials last week said they expect the agreement also to be formally approved by teachers, administrators, and parents charged with bringing about improvements at each of the schools involved.

Irene B. Dandridge, the president of the 8,000 member Baltimore Teachers Union, said the union has been extensively involved in the discussions with E.A.I. She said she was pleased the agreement will bring new resources and staff-development opportunities to the district.

But Ms. Dandridge said she remains “leery,” given the fact that E.A.I. is a for-profit company. She said it is “not doing one thing that a good teacher with a lot of experience does not know how to do,” but operates more cost-effectively than the district by not having as much bureaucracy.

$26-Million Agreement

The five-year agreement is expected to cost the 110,000-student, 177-school Baltimore system about $26 million. It calls for Education Alternatives to be given the district’s average cost per student--$5,415 this current year--for each of the 5,100 students in the nine schools.

The company is expected, in return, to produce measurable gains in student achievement. David A. Bennett, the company’s president, last week said his firm plans to bring about such improvements through its copyrighted Tesseract teaching program. The approach stresses individual instruction, parental participation, and the active involvement of pupils in their own education.

The company earlier this year contracted to help manage the entire Duluth, Minn., district. (See Education Week, March 18, 1992.)

But it was cut off from a similar agreement with the Green Brook, N.J., schools in April, after voters there ousted school-board members who had advocated bringing in E.A.I.

The company also manages a public school in Miami and private schools in Minnesota and Arizona.

Formerly a subsidiary of the Control Data Corporation, E.A.I. went public in 1991. It is now worth about $3 million, with 2.3 million In revenues and $1.4 million in losses last year, company officials said.

A version of this article appeared in the June 17, 1992 edition of Education Week