4/15 from Marc

School Violence

Any of you who saw the tape of a student beating art teacher Jolita Berry were rightly horrified. Any of you who work in our schools understands what led to this and knows that disrespect for teachers and the threat of violence felt by students and teachers is a common occurrence in our schools.

It cannot be tolerated.

First, the school administration must stand by its teachers. Students who physically attack and assault teachers must be arrested. There has to be zero tolerance for those who perpetrate violence against their peers and their teachers. It cannot be tolerated. You cannot teach or learn in atmospheres of violence.

That is short term. That is a necessary immediate response. Long term, it takes an administrative and pedagogic strategy to end violence and disruption in our schools.

Does it make any sense to suspend students back to the street corner? Does it make sense to kick them out of school into the hands of communities and families that bred and feed that behavior in the first place? I don’t think so.

About fifteen years ago, Lombard Middle School had a very successful in-school suspension program. I am not sure, beyond funding issues, why that program was dismantled. It must be resurrected throughout every school in the city.

Suspended students should be required to come to school attending special classes taught by volunteer staff members, counselors and social workers and ex-felons from the community. It might require special partnerships with local schools of social work, universities and our medical community. It would mean changing the rules to allow trained ex-offenders and community members to work with our most troubled young people.

The goal would be to successfully reintegrate these children into the mainstream student body.

I think Dr. Andres Alonso is right to call on 500 volunteers from the community to enter our most troubled schools. It will be an incredibly powerful message and a step in the right direction.

Long term policy needs to complement that to address the problem of violence and disruption in our schools. If not teachers may walk out. The best students and teachers will leave the system.

We can make it work.


This is just a modest proposal as a reflection on the closing the legislative session in Annapolis.   I have been thinking about how you create equity in our state and protect our land, environment and the Chesapeake Bay that we all love so much.

Let me offer some thoughts that would be a terrifying anathema to most people in the legislature and maybe a portion of our citizenry, as well.

Many of us worry about the increased development of our open spaces, the removal of the poor for housing for the wealthy, and the nature of much of that development.   What can you really do about it?

A man who I have known for 25 years, former state senator Gerald Winegrad, who was the original environmental warrior in the state legislature, suggested that all planning and zoning be taken away from local jurisdictions and given to the state Board of Public Works.   He says it is the only way to control development, save our forests and manage our agricultural lands.   When he said this on my show last year, I really had to stop and think about the consequences of this proposal.    I understand the frustration at watching our natural environment be devastated and our waterways becoming polluted beyond repair that led to this radical proposal.

The loss of local control is anathema to Americans.   Local control is a philosophical and pragmatic sentiment since the Declaration of Independence.   As unwieldy as it might be,  it really is the core of the American spirit.

So, in that spirit and pondering the proposal of that great patriot (he is a Navy JAG officer Lt. Commander I think) and environmentalist, Gerald Winegrad, let me offer an alternative.

If Maryland had one state wide property tax we could numb the power of developers in our local jurisdictions.   Counties and Baltimore City’s zoning and planning agencies are susceptible to the power of developers.    Development means property tax dollars in local coffers.   County and Baltimore City roads, schools and social service agencies are only as strong and funded as property tax revenues allow.   If there was a statewide property tax divided evenly between our jurisdictions then they could plan without pressure from outside development and capital power.    Then we could have local control that makes decisions that benefit the environment and citizens of localities.  It would create real local power.

If at the same time we equalized state funding for education it would add to local power and control.   If the state spent the same per pupil statewide each jurisdiction would be free to add as much as they want to their schools beyond that state number.    Counties and Baltimore City could be managed by elected boards, elected/appointed boards, appointed boards or no board at all.   They could create their own pedagogical policies.

Are we not one nation, are we not one state, and are we not one people?   Why should the vagaries of poverty or wealth of one jurisdiction over the other determine the well being and future of us all!

It seems to me that these ideas are the marriage of the best social democratic principles with our age old traditions of local control.

Your thoughts?



11 Responses

  1. Re: school violence
    I am and have been extremely concerned about our youth and the mixed messages they continue to receive from parents, the media, the school system and the government. I firmly believe it takes a village to raise a child and would support any program that helps address all the difficult issues faced by adolescents. Poverty makes everything harder and can lead to making or breaking one’s character. I have faced several issues in my own life including domestic violence, murder of a sibling and substance abuse in a close relative. Each time a person is faced with these issues s/he can become stronger or act out in ways that can hurt them for the rest of their lives. I wanted to voice my support that we are are one people and I find this an extremely important issue that can no longer be swept under the carpet. As always, Marc, you get right to the point and allow us to see the truth. Maybe the solution doesn’t lie in trusting the school board to do the right thing but to take matters into our own hands and do it outside the very broken school system and work along side it.

  2. You had some excellent suggestions. What also needs to be examined is our lack of parenting skills, how come we don’t hold students responsible for their actions, and how come teachers are not trained on handling these situations? I have another 78 solutions in my new book coming out in a few weeks called Attacking Our Educators.

  3. Excellent post – the two topics are related. Really like the idea of one school system for the state. It should not matter where a kid lives as to what school he attends. Tear down the “Berlin Wall” between city and county!

    Need to rethink the entire tax structure – to wean from ties to real estate cycles and incentives which only promotes building for property tax revenues.

  4. I agree with Norma. Governor O’Malley tear down this wall!

  5. I spent a few hours in looking-glass land yesterday. Nice place to visit. I wouldn’t want to live there, though.

    The venue was the April 15 meeting of the Your Public Radio Corporation Board of Directors. This board is the irrelevant one, the one on which Anthony Brandon has the only vote, according to station ownership reports filed with the FCC. NOTE: my interpretation has been disputed by a board member, who said Brandon doesn’t set his own salary. Brandon’s salary is supposedly determined by a compensation committee. I don’t know what committee is meant – the board flowchart handed out at the February 20 CAB meeting shows a finance committee, but no compensation committee. I don’t know who is on the compensation committee, if there is one, but I could guess.

    The agenda requested “No photography or recording please.” No explanation was provided for this strange request. The only excuse I have been able to think of is that the board did not want to publicize the fact that all of the board members present were white. Mr. Brandon told a WYPR reporter that two Black members of the board were present in the audience, but not at the board table. He did not name those members. I have been told that the board has one, but only one, African-American member, who was not present at yesterday’s meeting. The only African-Americans I saw in the room were CAB members, a Baltimore City policeman, one security or riot-control person who I think was from a private company, and a beautiful woman who I’m pretty sure is not on the BoD.

    See what I mean by looking-glass land? I’m not saying Brandon didn’t tell the truth, mind you. Perhaps I really am color-blind, maybe I just wasn’t paying attention.

    The Brandon interview aired on WYPR at 8:04 a.m. this morning. I can’t find it on line right now. I hope I presented Brandon’s comment accurately. If you know I got it wrong, please correct me.

    William Clarke III distributed financial reports for the past year and the most recent quarter to board members. Keeping to past practice, the secretive board of this “public” radio station did not share these reports with the public.

    Mr. Brandon reported that the recent fund drive reaped about $178,000 pledged, exclusive of matching funds, and that this was more than last year’s spring drive. This morning’s WYPR report, which is not now available on line, included this information, as did last night’s article by Baltimore Sun reporter Rob Hiaasen. The station raised no pledges from the winter drive, which was cancelled. Hiaasen gives us this information, but the WYPR report did not.

    I don’t know if Brandon’s numbers are accurate. Consider the source.

    A hard-working committee from the Community Advisory Board presented recommendations. Before the meeting, Mr. Brandon told a reporter from Baltimore Grassroots Media that a response to the CAB report had been prepared already, in advance of the CAB presentation, and would be read at the meeting by Barbara Bozutto. Bozutto’s first comment was that the CAB was irrelevant, and things raced downhill from there. A mild rumpus ensued, and Bozutto said the board was going into “executive session.” I think the board effectively adjourned. Members left the building by a side door, and a couple of members were wandering the halls 5 or 10 minutes later.

    The BGM website is down temporarily, so I can’t provide a link.

    I regret that this juvenile, lame excuse of a board wasn’t strong enough to tolerate even a minimal amount of dissention. We were deprived of the opportunity to hear the remaining agenda items, which were reports by Brandon and Gary Levine, and closing comments from Bozutto.

    Regarding Bozutto, from Hiaasen’s article we read “The firing was regrettable, she said…” This is not true. Bozutto said the board wished Marc’s firing had unfolded in a different way, but she didn’t say his firing was regrettable.

    Hiaasen also writes “The board attempted to take questions from the vocal crowd, but after extended ‘booing’ closed the meeting and went into executive session.” This is false also. The board collected written questions in case some time became available before 5 p.m. to answer questions, but in no case was any attempt made to take questions or comments from the floor, with one exception. That one exception was a comment from a CAB personage of distinction. (Ok, ok, Ms. Ifill was the commenter.)

    During the meeting, I wondered why we do this. Why do people pay money to an organization over which we have no influence or control, and in which we are not allowed to participate in any meaningful way? An astute observer noted that the money board, the 6-member holding corporation, is less public and less accountable than any conventionally-understood capitalist corporation. Have you ever acqured or accumulated ownership shares in return for your contributions? I haven’t. Have you ever received an invitation to a stockholder’s meeting, or proxy materials? Not me. Some commenters, probably including me, have not understood this. The stations are not community-owned. The holding company is not a public group. It is not even a public-service group. It is a private corporation, closely held by 6 individuals who operate the business for their own interests. If or when the assets of the holding corporation are sold, they are the ones who will benefit.

  6. The next meeting of the Your Public Radio Corporation has already been announced.

    The next Board of Directors meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 21 @ 3pm.


    The Family Tree
    2108 North Charles Street
    Baltimore, MD 21218

  7. Ron,

    Your last paragraph is absolutely spot on, and perfectly written. Send it as an LTE to the Sun. See if they publish it.

  8. Honestly, at this point, I have lost all interest in any future developments at wypr. Obviously they don’t care about the “public” opinion and they will not change the course they have taken. As far as I am concerned, I AM DONE.

    Let’s move on.

  9. Marc–let’s really do something to better Baltimore. Ever think about running for Mayor…better yet, Governor! That’s the ticket, go for it.

  10. Agree on just about everything except for the idea that funding our county and city school systems on an equal per pupil basis. Wouldn’t this create inequity due to the relative wealth of the area? Unless this is somehow equalized with your idea about property taxes. I’d like to hear more about that and how it would work.

    And what about the state income tax? I’m not sure but I believe this is the second largest source of revenue for jurisdictions. I would be afraid that Baltimore City would be worse off if every jurisdiction got the same amount for schools due to the city’s general lack of revenue. Other counties would still do much better supplementing the state’s money with local dollars due to more revenue generated from various taxes; sales, income, property transfer, etc. Further, a municipality’s ability to bond is drastically unequal. Thornton does a decent job of leveling the playing field in terms of funding for school’s operating budgets. However, every locality has a cap on bonding for school construction and capital improvements. If you look at the numbers, you’ll see that the city is so far behind in keeping up with maintenance on their school buildings. Meanwhile, Montgomery County has the ability to put $100 million in bonds for their schools and they have been getting more money from the state than Baltimore City! Their schools are mucher newer, have nice playgrounds, science labs, no asbestos, no lead in the pipes, and beautiful lobby areas. City students get broken boilers so they freeze in school and they are lucky to get new windows so that they can see outside.

    Sorry for the rant. I’m in favor of anything that is focused on giving poor kids and families more resources, great schools, desegregating communities, and dispersing poverty. I’ll get behind a plan to that end.

  11. Indie,
    Your “rant” is a great. Right on as to why things are a mess right now.

    The earlier post from me last week- I am in favor of all that eliminates the inequity that exists by having separate schools districts.

    “Excellent post – the two topics are related. Really like the idea of one school system for the state. It should not matter where a kid lives as to what school he attends. Tear down the “Berlin Wall” between city and county!

    Need to rethink the entire tax structure – to wean from ties to real estate cycles and incentives which only promotes building for property tax revenues.”


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