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In the Media: Leadership School for Women Graduates First Class; Baltimore Schools A/C Controversy

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A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From the Baltimore Sun: Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women graduates first class

"Seven years ago 120 girls bedecked in purple polo shirts and plaid skirts walked into an experiment — a Baltimore public school modeled on those originally designed for affluent white girls whose families could afford to send them to 'finishing school.'

On Friday, half of those girls, all but one of them African-American and most from working-class families, will don white robes to make history as the first graduating class of the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, the city's first all-female, public middle-high school.

"The 60 graduates, all of whom are going to college, embody the fulfillment of a dream that there could be a school where girls from across the city could come together and 'transform Baltimore one young woman at a time.'

"The motto represents the mission of Brenda Brown Rever, a local philanthropist who founded the public charter school in 2009 with the help of a board of directors that now includes such prominent figures as Carla Hayden, CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, who is set to become librarian of Congress.

"A lifelong advocate for women's rights, Rever said she realized 10 years ago that she needed to help women earlier in their lives by educating and empowering them 'so that they would have a better life within their grasp.'

"The Leadership School is modeled after a school in East Harlem, N.Y., whose mission was to provide a premier education and college preparation to underserved girls in an urban setting and have 100 percent of them graduate and be accepted to college.

"The young women who met that challenge in Baltimore say their journey was marked by trials and triumphs as they grew up in a school whose own growing pains were felt in what is affectionately called the 'BLSYW (pronounced 'Bliss') bubble.'

"'When we were in sixth grade, a lot of people didn't think we would still be here, let alone all be accepted into college,' said Cori Grainger, who will attend the Johns Hopkins University in the fall on a full scholarship. 'But being here, surrounded by people who want you to do better and be better, we found there's always a way.'"

Full Article

From the Baltimore Sun: Transit union says Baltimore’s subway is rat-infested, demands MTA response

"Union workers who operate the Baltimore Metro subway protested at the Mondawmin station Thursday against a rat infestation they say Maryland Transit Administration management has ignored for years while it festered into unbearable working conditions.

"'Down inside this system, it is a death trap down there,' said David McClure, president of Baltimore Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1300. 'We have a lot of trash, food. The rats are feeding off that.'

"The 2,700-member union wants the MTA to adopt an abatement program similar to the city's. The city has introduced rat-resistant trash cans to curb the issue aboveground.

"Workers encounter the rodents on the tracks, platforms and the escalators, McClure said. And even when they don't see them, he said, the stench can be nauseating and overwhelming.

"'We have pictures of a rat that looks like a baby kangaroo,' he said. 'No one should have to come and work in these types of conditions. They have my members inside a booth and you have baby rats under the floorboards, [and] huge rats that have been running around in the stations.'

"Michael McMillan, a member of the union's executive board, said the lack of response demonstrates a lack of concern not only for members' well-being but for the public that uses the system.

"An MTA spokeswoman said the administration has received no customer complaints, and the union did not bring up rats during the collective bargaining that led to an agreement last month."

Full Article

From the AFRO: Parents Protest Balto. School A/C Requirements

"As the post-Memorial Day heat swelled in the city this week, Baltimore Education Coalition’s member groups rallied and marched to the State Office Building to persuade the Maryland Board of Public Works to rescind a requirement for Baltimore Public Schools to install air-conditioning units in 2000 classrooms by the start of the 2016-2017 academic year. 

"In May, the three-member Board consisting of Gov. Larry Hogan, State Treasurer Nancy Kopp, and Comptroller, Peter Franchot, voted 2-1 to reduce Baltimore City Schools’ already approved $27.5 million FY 2017 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) request by five million dollars if the school system does not install unit air conditioners in classrooms by August of this year. State Treasurer Nancy Kopp objected to the vote calling it “political theatre.” David Lever, executive director of the Maryland Public School Construction Program resigned in the aftermath of the air-conditioning decision. Level said that the Board of Public Works had no role in intervening in the request for construction funds by a local jurisdiction. 

“'They are giving us an option that doesn’t make sense and it’s backing us into a corner. Where are we going to get the money from? We’ve already had budget cuts with teachers and staff? Instead of us being able to spend the money on what’s needed and intended, they are withholding the money for no reason' said Tenne Thrower, community school coordinator of Barclay Elementary and a leader with the Baltimore Education Coalition. 

"More than 85% of Baltimore City Public School buildings are in poor condition according to a report conducted for the School System by Jacobs Engineering Group.  Baltimore School Coalition leaders stated that the older schools required to install the window unit air conditioners are the schools that have multiple problems such as leaky roofs, inadequate electrical systems, malfunctioning fire alarm systems and unreliable heating systems. 

"Baltimore Education Coalition organizers and supporters from the American Civil Liberties said the air conditioning unit issue diverts funds and attention from systemic improvements in Baltimore City Public School buildings and is a political ploy that hurts Baltimore’s children. Last Fall Governor Hogan and Franchot sought to pressure Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz to install window air conditioning units in older county schools, using a portion of the county’s $27 million fund collected for school improvements.  Baltimore Education Coalition supporters believe the request for window units in Baltimore City’s older schools is an extension of the demand placed on Baltimore County. 

"In a May 16 letter to the Board of Works, acting Baltimore City School’s Chief Tammy L. Turner wrote that Baltimore Schools do not have the surplus to make the request for window air conditioning a reality. 'Our estimate of the cost to install air conditioning units in 2000 classrooms is $27 million. The district does not have additional resources to fund such an aggressive program.' Turner also addressed electrical upgrades, ventilation and other issues that would support installation of window units that make the requested project impossible to achieve between now and the start of the 2016-2017 school year." 

Full Article