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Mayor Extols Public-Private Partnership in Visit to Charter School in West Baltimore


Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, JD, visited a West Baltimore charter school that has been greatly shaped by its partnership with the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB). The mayor visited Furman L. Templeton Preparatory Academy (FLT) on May 28, calling the public school "one of the best examples of public-private partnerships in the city."

Her remarks came during a speech to the fourth- and fifth-grade classes gathered in the cafeteria of the school, located in the Upton/Druid Heights neighborhood not far from the UMB campus. Promise Heights, a partnership led by the University of Maryland School of Social Work (SSW), aims to improve the lives of children from infancy to age 21 living in the neighborhood, one of the poorest in the city.

"You are our future," Rawlings-Blake told the FLT youngsters, offering advice for success including several suggestions to put into effect right away. "Make it a book-filled summer," she said, advocating plenty of reading. That will not be a stretch for the 450 pupils at FLT, which is a public charter school that operates on a year-round schedule.

The mayor's visit, part of a speakers' series, ended with a question-and-answer session that prompted raised hands and earnest queries. How to balance being a mom and mayor? Answer: rely on family to take her place during moments she must miss. Who are her most inspirational figures? Answer: her mother, Nina Rawlings, MD, a pediatrician who graduated from the University of Maryland in 1966; and her father, Maryland Del. Howard "Pete" Rawlings, who died in 2003. Career? Lawyer. In fact, she graduated from the University's law school, now the UM Francis King Carey School of Law, in 1995.

Among the leaders who greeted Rawlings-Blake upon her arrival were SSW Dean Richard Barth, PhD, MSW, and Assistant Dean Bronwyn Mayden, MSW, executive director of the Promise Heights initiative. In the photo above, they stand with FLT Principal Debra Santos, who extends her hand to Rawlings-Blake, right, as pupils look on from the stairs.

The U.S. Department of Education awarded a 2012 Promise Neighborhood planning grant to the University that gives new momentum to this 5-year-old effort. Promise Heights now includes broad collaboration by UMB professional schools with educational, faith-based, private and non-profit partners in the effort. It is designed to provide educational, social, financial, mental health, and health services from cradle to career or college.



For Barth and Mayden, the event at FLT came within days of a different official visit in Baltimore that drew attention to Promise Heights. That was the appearance on May 17 by President Barack Obama at a West Baltimore manufacturing plant. Barth, Mayden, and Rachel Donegan, JD, a SSW clinical instructor and programs coordinator for Promise Heights, were among those invited by the White House. Said Mayden, referring to her brief interaction with President Obama: "I thanked him for the Promise Neighborhood [grant]."

The Presidential visit took place on UMB's Commencement Day, presenting logistical challenges for Barth, who began the day at the School's convocation at the Patricia and Arthur Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric, rushed at midday to Ellicott Dredges in the Camden-Carroll industrial area to hear Obama urge greater opportunities for workers to join the middle class, and then made it to the 1st Mariner Arena for the UMB commencement ceremony.

On May 28, his trip to FLT was much more a normal part of the dean's routine. Barth has been an officer of the advisory board since FLT converted to charter status in 2011 and became involved in the elementary school's makeover a year before that. Joining him and leading the mayor's tour was fellow member and chair of FLT's board, Andrew Bertamini, regional president of Greater Baltimore for Wells Fargo. Bertamini organized the speakers' series that led to Rawlings-Blake's appearance.

The series is but one of many enrichment activities, such as a voluntary "Saturday school" that drew 70 youngsters week after week. Another example is last year's publication of a book of poetry by fourth-graders, who presented their poems at the 2012 CityLit Festival under the direction of Gillian Gregory, MSW, LCSW-C, a clinical instructor at the SSW who is the Community Resource School coordinator for FLT and maintains a Promise Heights office at the school.

Joining the tour for the mayor and her aides was Yusuf Abdul Dashiell, assistant principal of the school, who explained that FLT offers instruction with an emphasis on technology for pupils from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. The group stopped in a computer lab and in a third-grade math classroom, where students were learning multiplication with the help of tablets and other electronic teaching tools.

The University-led Promise Heights project is a partner of the Judith P. Hoyer Program, known as Judy Centers. The latter serves infants to age 5, and is located downstairs at FLT. Also housed there are two Head Start programs for young children. Numerous 2- and 3-year-olds were napping when the mayor arrived, and she peeked at them at the start of her tour. To everyone's relief, the toddlers slept right though it.

Posting Date: 05/30/2013
Contact Name: Patricia Fanning
Contact Phone: 410-706-7946
Contact Email: pfanning@umaryland.edu