In observance of American Education Week, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake sat down with 30 parents, students and educators from 10 Baltimore schools Nov. 20 as part of a drive to pin down what’s good and what’s bad in the city’s schools.

The roundtable, part of the city’s celebration of the National Education Association’s American Education Week from Nov. 18-to- Nov. 22, focused on three areas that Rawlings-Blake has said she considers vital: student attendance, school infrastructure for the 21st century and the search for a new school CEO.

“We believe the informal roundtable discussions, followed by tangible outcomes, will help to increase public confidence in government and our education system,” Rawlings-Blake said in a statement to the AFRO.

She said the biggest education achievement gap is student attendance. “If our kids aren’t making it to class then our efforts will not maximized,” the mayor said.

The hour-long frank exchange with the mayor drew in four elementary schools—Wolfe Street Academy, Westside, Harford Heights and Frederick Elementary Schools– three elementary/middle schools—Calverton, Roland Park and City Neighbors Charter Elementary/Middle School and three high schools—City Neighbors, Mergenthaler Vocational and Paul Laurence Dunbar High.

According to the mayor’s office, the school system selected the schools based on their attendance, successes and challenges.

Dineica Davis, second grade teacher at Frederick Elementary School told the AFRO, “This was a great opportunity to hear what other people had to say and to bounce ideas off of others.”

She said, “It was a way to come together to help us with what is going on in schools right now, which is kids attendance.”

While the event marked the first roundtable the mayor has hosted, the mayor has made visits each week to public schools to hear from students, teachers, principals, parents and community stakeholders.

The mayor said the kind of frank exchange that occurred at the meeting gives her the opportunity to hear directly from school officials.

Davis said that her school’s Education Week activities included activities to broaden the awareness of parents about what is happening in the school and featured an Eat with Your Child Day and a Multicultural Night, an evening in which the cultures of the students were explored.

“I always try to invite my parents, I let them know that there is an open door,” she said. “We try to do a lot of activities to let parents know that they are welcome anytime to come into our schools.”

“This was the time where we talk about the things that work and the things that don’t work,” said Rawlings-Blake. “I’ve taken the initiative to focus on attendance and to make sure everyone understands the importance of education.”

The mayor pledged to conduct a follow-up meeting with the group that gathered Nov. 20.

Blair Adams

AFRO Staff Writer