City Schools Blackout, 82 Days With No Interviews

City Schools Blackout, 82 Days With No Interviews

BALTIMORE (WBFF) - The date was September 5, 2017. The first day of the new school year. Project Baltimore was at Excel Academy in West Baltimore. We had discovered six students from the school, in the previous year, had been shot and killed on the streets of Baltimore.

After touring the school, City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises sat down with Project Baltimore to answer some questions.

“It is life or death,” said Santelises. “For a lot of our young people, the safest place they could be is in school.”

That interview was 82 days ago. It marks the last time anyone from City Schools Administration has interviewed with Project Baltimore.

On-camera interviews are vitally important. It’s how television reporters hold public officials accountable and get answers for taxpayers. And since that day, September 5, Project Baltimore’s reports have raised some serious questions about what’s happening inside City Schools.

We analyzed 2017 state testing data and found 13 City High Schools that did not have a single student proficient in math. Also using state data, we found attendance last year in City Schools hit a

13-year low.

While City Schools leadership wouldn’t talk to us, many teachers, parents, students and other school employees did. Most of them explained how they believe students are being pushed through the system without doing the work.

We even obtained and reported on a text from a city principal that appears to show her instructing teachers to change failing grades to passing.

Our reports have resulted in City Schools launching two internal investigations into allegations of grade changing. We learned from an internal memo from North Avenue that our investigations have led to the central grading system being analyzed, school leaders have been issued grading guidelines and mandatory training has been ordered for those who input grades.

Our stories have gotten the attention of state and city leaders.

“Zero people proficient. That’s outrageous,” stated Governor Larry Hogan.

“This needs to be wakeup call and a rallying call for our entire city,” said Baltimore City Council member, Zeke Cohen.

But through all of this, no administrators at North Avenue, despite dozens of requests would sit down with Project Baltimore to discuss our investigations. Even though, as we also reported in October, those administrators benefit from Baltimore City Schools having the highest administrative costs per student in America.

For all of those stories, North Avenue did sent Project Baltimore statements. Our requests for information were generally fulfilled.

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