City Schools' CEO Andrés A. Alonso's April 3, 2013, message to staff, partners and friends of the district on final passage of legislation to fund 21st-century buildings for our kids.
Dear City Schools Colleagues, Staff, Partners and Friends,
Today is a great and historic day, and I write to you with a whole new sense of possibility for the students of Baltimore City Public Schools.
After several weeks of amendments and debate in both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly, the House of Delegates put the finishing touches yesterday on legislation that establishes funding and oversight for Baltimore City Public Schools' 10-year buildings plan. The final passage of the bill, which now goes to the governor to be signed into law, will result in an approximately $1 billion investment in new and modernized school buildings over the next decade and allow us to move forward with implementing the plan.
Why is this historic? It is historic because lawmakers from around the state have come together in a shared commitment to the students of Baltimore City, and a shared acknowledgment of the tremendous need they face for better learning environments. It is historic because the new and modernized buildings this legislation makes possible represent an unprecedented investment in our children and our neighborhoods. These modern buildings will support the remarkable progress now underway in the district, and our collective goal, led by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, to grow the population of Baltimore City. And it is historic because, like all great causes, it is the product of incredibly hard work by so many people, and it challenges all of us to keep pressing ahead for our kids and the future they represent.
On behalf of our schools, I'd like to express our deepest gratitude to all of the many, many people who helped make this happen.
This effort to rebuild our schools has its roots in the community, and began with the voices of parents, teachers and students. Many community partners, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, Transform Baltimore, Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, the Baltimore Education Coalition, and business and philanthropic leaders played critical roles in lifting up those voices into a clear, unified message: that our buildings must reflect the same high standards we have set for instruction and achievement. Their tireless advocacy helped to create a growing sense of urgency and possibility around a districtwide buildings overhaul. Thousands of people engaged in community-level conversations over the course of a year that led to the development of the 10-year plan and culminated in a 3,000-person rally in Annapolis early in the 2013 legislative session to urge lawmakers from around the state to do right by Baltimore City's kids. Without these and many other efforts, we could not have reached this point.
The work to develop the 10-year plan has, at each step along the way, been propelled forward by the bold vision and leadership of the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners. Board Chair Neil Duke and his fellow commissioners understand the essential role of the 10-year plan in solidifying and building on the academic reforms of the district to date, and have been unrelenting in their effort to keep the buildings work on track and moving forward.
The leadership of Mayor Rawlings-Blake has been essential and exemplary. She convened a multidisciplinary task force that thought through options for paying for the 10-year plan. She and the City Council passed the bottle tax in Baltimore City, the proceeds of which are a critical component of the overall funding plan and which proved the point in Annapolis that Baltimore was committed to our kids in word and deed. The rebuilding of City Schools, which we will now commence, will play a critical role in attracting 10,000 new households to the city over the next 10 years, in furtherance of her vision of a growing, thriving city.
Governor Martin O'Malley, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown and our leaders in both the House of Delegates and the Senate provided bold direction, creative thinking and steady commitment to Baltimore City's youngest citizens. The legislation that the legislature passed and that now goes to the governor to be signed into law makes a powerful statement about how children are valued in this state and why Maryland is recognized consistently as the top state in the nation for its commitment to public education.
Work this complex and challenging requires many hands, and so many of you played a role. All of that work was necessary to reach this moment. To all of you, thank you for believing in Baltimore's children.
This is a moment to reflect, celebrate and savor. And it is just the beginning of the great work we will all continue to do together in the months and years ahead. We are on the brink of making the largest public investment ever in Baltimore City's students and communities, and there is a great deal of work ahead of us. Initial steps include developing and entering into a Memorandum of Understanding among City Schools, Baltimore City, the Maryland Stadium Authority and the Interagency Committee on School Construction (IAC) that spells out how these various agencies will work together in the complex design and construction process. They also include development of general educational specifications for schools with input from the public. Then the specific design process for schools designated for construction in Year 1 begins.
In this complex work, there will be challenges and hard choices, and we will need to remain nimble as we move forward, to make sure we are meeting our school communities' needs and are taking into account shifting conditions over a decade-long span. But with passage of the construction funding legislation we have shown what is possible when we come together to focus on our kids. As a state, a city and a school district, we are sending the message to our teachers and, most importantly, to our students that we care about them, and are deeply invested in their futures.
Onward, toward 21st-century buildings for our kids!
Andrés A. Alonso, Ed.D.
CEO, Baltimore City Public Schools