Andrés A. Alonso, the hard-charging chief executive of Baltimore’s city schools who pushed an aggressive reform agenda that helped move the long-struggling district out of the bottom academically, will leave the district June 30, The Baltimore Sun reports. Alonso, who was hired in 2007, will have served six years, the longest tenure of any Baltimore schools chief in recent years.
According to The Sun, Alonso will move back to the Northeast to help care for his aging parents in New Jersey and to teach part-time at Harvard University. Alonso, an immigrant from Cuba who was an English-language learner, is a Harvard-trained lawyer whose first job in education was as a special education teacher in Newark, N.J.
Tisha Edwards, a former social worker and chief of staff to Alonso since 2009, will serve as interim CEO, The Sun reports.
In his run as schools chief, Alonso, using broad authority granted to him from the city’s appointed school board, ushered in sweeping changes designed to move a district that had seen little to no upward trajectory academically in decades and was on the verge of being taken over by the state of Maryland. He shut down, or overhauled, chronically underperforming schools and brought in more school choice for families. He also started a new funding formula that allocated money to schools based on their students’ needs and put principals in much greater control of their budgets and launched an aggressive effort to reduce chronic absenteeism among students.
Out-of-school suspensions, which hit a high of 25,000 in 2005, plummeted under Alonso, who ordered a top-to-bottom rewrite of the district’s code of conduct and tasked one of his deputies, Jonathan Brice, with developing an array of alternatives to out-of-school suspensions that is now considered a model for other districts.
In more recent months, Alonso has been locked in a fierce conflict with the city’s principals’ union.
Part of that tension stems from the CEO’s uncompromising stance on testing integrity since district and state officials found signs of possible cheating on Maryland’s state exams at one elementary school in 2010. More problems were uncovered at two additional schools in 2011, and Alonso went public with the allegations. His approach—in major contrast with how cheating allegations were addressed in districts like Atlanta and the District of Columbia—led the principals’ union to accuse Alonso of being overzealous and using too-thin evidence of cheating to get rid of school leaders.
Andrés Alonso speaks with Principal Rhonda Richetta at City Springs Elementary School in Baltimore during a tour of the school in 2009.
--Stephen Voss for Education Week-File
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.