Skip to main content

Setting The Record Straight

Accurate, transparent information about our media coverage

City Schools works closely with its partners in the news media to keep you informed about the work of educating students in Baltimore City. This webpage offers supplemental background, documents, and insight that supports those news stories.


Periodically, we will update this page with posts that pertain to news stories of great interest to our stakeholders. If you have a story or good news tip you would like to share, please email

May 5, 2023
UPDATE: Patterson, et al. v. City Schools

Please note: this is an update to the July 6, 2022, post on this webpage regarding the Patterson, et al. v. City Schools litigation. For background, please refer to that post by scrolling down on this webpage.

Patterson, et al. v. BCBSC, a lawsuit against Baltimore City Public Schools, is currently pending in Baltimore City Circuit Court. As noted in its legal filings, City Schools maintains that the plaintiffs’ lawsuit is meritless because it fails to identify a current controversy justifying judicial intervention. 

Even if the plaintiffs’ lawsuit identified current concerns with City School policies or procedures, there is a robust local, state, and federal infrastructure to handle these types of issues. Through this litigation, City Schools stands ready to demonstrate our steadfast commitment to providing a quality education to all students. The case is currently proceeding in the discovery stage, and City Schools is eager to move forward with its defenses to obtain a speedy and efficient resolution to the claims raised by plaintiffs.

April 17, 2023
SY 22-23 Salary Database background

Each school year, Baltimore City Public Schools publishes its employee salaries on its website – view it here. The information includes employee names, salaries, positions, hire date, and any additional earnings such as overtime and benefits earnings (Ex. cashing in benefit time).

The currently posted information captures earnings from October 16, 2021, to October 15, 2022, for 11,664 active employees as of October 15, 2022. The database reflects actual salaries as of October 15, 2022. (Note: hourly salaries are not annualized.)

This database is maintained in accordance with Board Policy KDA, which expressly requires the annual publication of the salary database. Also, sharing this information supports our desire to foster disclosure, transparency, and understanding among our stakeholders.

If you have questions about this database, please email

Salary distribution

Total earnings (inclusive of regular, overtime, and all other additional earnings) breakdown across all employees – including temporary staff and substitute teachers.

Salary Database graphic

Chief Executive Officer

  • While the Chief Executive Officer had Total Earnings which exceeded her Annual Salary, this is due to leave payouts and conversions in accordance with her contract.
    • The CEO’s Regular Earnings do not exceed her Annual Salary. 
    • The CEO received about $87.1k in Additional Earnings composed of leave payouts for unused vacation time (~$80.7k) and a sick leave conversion (~$6.4k) in accordance with her current contract.



  • City Schools has more than 11,600 employees.
  • Approximately 107 City Schools employees listed in the database made at least $150,000 in total earnings. This group represents less than 1 percent of all employees. 
  • Approximately 164 teachers had total earnings of more than $15,000 than their annual salaries. This may be due to occurrences such as stipends, summer pay, or coaching addendums.
  • Approximately 275 employees had additional earnings over $20,000. Additional earnings cover leave payouts, stipends, substitute teacher earnings, and summer payments (among other pay elements). Of this group, 168 employees had summer earnings, 155 had stipend earnings, 36 received the coaching addendum, and four had severance payouts.
  • Approximately 53 temporary employees earned more than $50,000. About 81 percent of those employees had an hourly pay rate between $15 and $30 per hour.

School Police earnings

  • Approximately 23 percent ($1.93 million) of total earnings ($8.38 million) for School Police organization staff came from overtime.
  • Approximately 30 School Police employees had total earnings of more then $30,000 above their annual salary.
  • FOP union contract requires that overtime is paid at a rate of 1.5 times the normal hourly rate (and a minimum of 2 hours must be paid for time over 40 hours related to court appearances).


NOTE: Balance adjustments are not included in the salary database. These rare adjustments include items such as (but not limited to) the CEO’s auto allowance (as outlined in her contract), imputed income, and/or wage adjustments. 


February 8, 2023
City Schools Police Overtime Payments

On January 30, 2023, WBFF-TV’s Project Baltimore aired a story alleging overtime inaccuracies and overpayments for Baltimore City School Police. The report contained an apparent inaccuracy based on the news outlet’s latest flawed analysis of data provided by City Schools via an open records response.

City Schools believes the community is entitled to accurate information about this topic. The following summarizes the WBFF-TV Project Baltimore inaccuracy and the truth.

  • The news report alleges six instances where a school police officer was being paid for regular time and overtime for the same hours worked. WBFF-TV provided only two dates for verification.


  • Upon review of these instances, the officer in question was not paid by City Schools for both regular hours and overtime hours, as alleged. June 18, 2021, was the federally observed holiday of Juneteenth, and March 14, 2020, was a Saturday.


  • Review of the records provided by City Schools to the media outlet reveals that City Schools employees did not work regular hours on either day. Thus, any time a School Police officer worked on those days counted as overtime.

We urge all reporters to reach out to City Schools to avoid publishing errors that are easy to verify and reconcile.

December 16, 2022
City Schools has competitive teacher salaries (Capital News Service)

On December 13, 2022, several news outlets ran variations of an article that claims City Schools has some of the lowest salaries for teachers in Maryland, especially among those with master's degrees.

The assertion was based on flawed methodology and a misunderstanding of City Schools' teacher salary scales compared to other Maryland public school districts.

The following is a clarification with important facts about this topic:

Baltimore City Public Schools starting teacher salaries are in the top quarter of Maryland public school districts. Furthermore, City Schools teachers can make more at the top of the scale than almost any other district.

An original news report published by a state-wide outlet this week, and parroted by some other outlets without verification or their own research, contained false or misleading information compiled by the reporter. To ensure our stakeholders have the best and most accurate information, we are sharing these important points:

The first-year salaries for City Schools teachers are in the top quarter of Maryland public school districts in school year 2022-2023 – After reviewing the starting salaries of every district of Maryland, City Schools determined that its first-year salaries were in the top quarter of all districts in the state, which makes us very competitive with our peers. A first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree is placed on the salary scales negotiated with the Baltimore Teachers Union at $53,898. A first-year teacher with a master’s degree is placed on the salary scales at $57,180, and a first-year teacher with a doctorate at $67,336.  All these rates are well above the average for the State. 

City Schools teachers with a bachelors, masters, or doctorate degree can all earn up to $114,444 – This rate is extremely competitive with the top-of-the scale salaries in other districts that are reserved only for teachers who hold doctorates.

Our salary scales have all increased over the last 10 years at a rate that is very competitive with other Maryland school districts - Our salary scales have increased over the last 10 years at a rate that is very competitive with other districts in Maryland. For example, from 2012 to 2022, there has been a 13.5% salary increase for first-year teachers with a master’s degree.

Previous news reporting noted that City Schools’ salary structure differs from other Maryland school districts, but still included reported flawed comparisons anyway - Unlike other systems, City Schools teachers’ movement up the salary scale is self-paced. Baltimore City teachers can move up more than one interval in a school year, based on their annual evaluations and participation in continuing education and professional development activities.  The salary structure currently in place for City Schools does not have separate scales based on degree attained. Regardless of their degree level, new teachers can be placed at various levels on the scale, based on years of experience.

Teachers are the backbone of efforts to prepare City Schools students for higher education and a life-sustaining career. The data shows that we are hiring and competitively compensating qualified, supportive teachers who are building a generation of young people with the skills, knowledge and understanding to succeed in college, careers, and community, not just here in Baltimore but in any city in the world.

October 27, 2022
We are spending our ESSER funds (Washington Post)

On October 24, 2022, The Washington Post posted an article titled "Schools got $122 billion to reopen last year. Most has not been used." The article details how different school systems, including City Schools, have spent Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) grants.


Some readers have contacted City Schools with concerns about assertions made in the article, particularly that the district may not have spent ESSER funds. It is important to understand the Post article focused on only one of many COVID relief grants – i.e., the third iteration of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) grant funded under the American Recovery Plan (ARP). 

For context, City Schools has received 29 COVID grants to date. The largest of these are the 3 ESSER grants, each with a different grant spending period.  ARP ESSER (the focus of the Post article) is the most recent of the ESSER grants and has the last expiration date. 

City Schools has strategically focused on first utilizing other COVID funds with earlier expiration dates.  We have been fully spending available resources, and we are on track to fully utilize all grants, including the ARP ESSER funds.  Of our 29 COVID grants, 16 to date have been fully closed out.  

 In short, please understand City Schools has implemented and is operating under a strategic spending plan, which aligns activity timelines and spending deadlines for each ESSER grant.  The Post article failed to clarify that as this is the third ESSER grant, these funds are meant to support school years 2022-23, 2023-24, as well as 2024 activities and summer programming. 

Please see the chart below for reference:

UPDATED - Chart ESSER spending


October 4, 2022
How we hire nurses (Maryland Matters opinion piece)

On October 3, 2022, Maryland Matters published an opinion piece by Christine Simon-Waterman, president of the Maryland Nurses Association. In the piece, the writer makes the following statement:

"The Maryland Nurses Association is concerned by recent reports that the Baltimore City Public Schools is not expanding its number of full-time school nurses with its Blueprint funding, and this problem could potentially be occurring in other jurisdictions. Students everywhere are increasingly facing health crises. One-fourth of children have a chronic disease, and the numbers are rising. More students are grappling with behavioral health challenges."

The assertion does not reflect some fundamental truths regarding nurses in City Schools, including:

Currently, all schools have registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and/or nursing assistants to support student health needs. 

City Schools has a longstanding contractual agreement with the Baltimore City Health Department to staff the district's health suites and centers, and to be responsible for school health programs - BCHD is working to meet that requirement, contingent on the availability of nurses. ​To support BCHD efforts, City Schools has provided staffing in health suites with vacancies BCHD was unable to fill.  Currently, all schools have a registered nurse or nurse's assistant in place to support student health. 

The school health aides are overseen by rotating delegating nurses provided by BCHD. The health aides and the nurses are hired, trained, and supervised by BCHD - City Schools provides the workspace, furniture, computer, and some funding. Nurses are assigned between one to three schools.

BCHD is working to provide additional nurses to increase coverage in all schools but has been hindered by a well-documented national nursing shortage - City Schools has supported BCHD by working proactively with universities and other partners to identify candidates, and City Schools provided funding to increase nurse salaries to support the recruiting effort.

BCHD is required under the Blueprint Act to continue to provide the same level of funding and support for school nurses that they did prior to passage of the Blueprint - Due to a pre-existing national nursing shortage that has been exacerbated by the pandemic, BCHD has struggled to hire nurses.  BCHD has negotiated increases to their nursing salary scale to increase their competitiveness and City Schools has committed additional Blueprint funding to support those salary increases in support of BCHD's hiring efforts. 

July 6, 2022
Statement on litigation - Patterson, et al. v. City Schools

Ben Crump, a lawyer with a national profile, announced he will join Patterson, et al. v. BCBSC, a lawsuit against Baltimore City Public Schools.

The lawsuit was originally filed against Baltimore City Public Schools and the City. The lawsuit was recently amended.

The following is our statement to the media on this matter:

City Schools has a pending motion to dismiss the Pattersons’ lawsuit based on clear, legal grounds. Our motion papers are publicly accessible. We remain steadfastly dedicated to providing a quality education to all students. The plaintiffs’ lawsuit ignores that there is a robust local, state, and federal infrastructure to handle these types of claims. This matter of law will be decided in a court of law.

Read the amended motion -  read it here.


June 8, 2022
Response to the Maryland Inspector General's report on grading in City Schools

On June 7, 2022, the Maryland Office of the Inspector General (OIGE) released the results of a three-year review regarding grade changes in City Schools between 2016 and 2019. City Schools issued a response to the report shared in italics below. Areas of emphasis are in bold.

You may also review our full written response to the OIGE here.

The report issued by the Maryland Office of the Inspector General (OIGE) is a perplexing end to a nearly three-year review into grade changes in our school system. City Schools has shared gigabytes worth of data, thousands of pages of documents, and hours of interviews with OIGE to help the office better understand what occurred more than 3 years ago, before many of our current seniors entered high school. 

As the OIGE’s report acknowledged, Dr. Sonja Santelises, CEO of City Schools launched an extensive overhaul of our grading policy – Board Policy IKA – to ensure that our grading is fair, equitable, and accurately reflects our students’ achievements. As a result of that overhaul, the Board adopted significant revisions in May 2019.  

Over 20 pages of the report, the OIGE notes the challenges of implementing changes to our policy, but it did not find a violation of the law or financial improprieties. The incidents cited largely occurred before the policy change in 2019 and did not illustrate systemwide pressure to change grades.

Most significantly, the report did not make specific recommendations other than further review. Nevertheless, City Schools welcomes the opportunity to contract for an external review of grade changes made during the 2022-23 school year to ensure we maintain our path of continuous improvement. This will be the first school year after the main thrust of the pandemic, offering current data in a near-normal school environment.

May 31, 2022
Political aspirant touts poorly researched claims (WBAL Radio)

On May 31, 2022, political aspirant and WBAL Radio personality Kimberly Klacik made a series of heavily distorted and unsupported claims on her over-the-air radio show regarding Baltimore City Public Schools, its efforts to install air conditioning in its schools, and its Office of Equity. The comments, paraphrased below, were particularly noteworthy for their misstatements, distortions, and questions based on a misunderstanding of our work.

Ms. Klacik is welcome to her opinions and misconceptions, which she frequently touts as fact. However, she is not entitled to her own facts. City Schools is providing the following clarifications based on her unsupported assertions.

Ms. Klacik miscounted and misstated the schools that had an early dismissal on May 31 due to heat. A list of the impacted schools may be found at

  • There were 18 schools that dismissed early that day because they do not have air conditioning. However, there is a plan to provide air conditioning to those schools. She may read it here.
  • There were another 12 schools that dismissed early because their air conditioning units are being repaired.
  • Ms. Klacik did not note the following: At this time, all these projects have committed and identified funding through the Built to Learn Program, the 21st Century Buildings Program, ESSER, Healthy Schools Funding, or the Capital Improvement Plan. We project that 6 of these projects will be completed during the 2022-23 school year, 6 additional projects will extend through the summer of 2023, and the remainder will be completed as part of a building replacement or renovation plan. 

Ms. Klacik lacks apparent understanding about the purpose and goals of City Schools’ Office of Equity:

  • While promoting her appearance, Ms. Klacik posted a cropped screenshot with a description of the office from an unnamed source. Ms. Klacik should have referred to the official description that is easily accessible on our website at
  • The webpage notes the goal of City Schools’ equity work is to change outcomes for young people so that race is no longer a predictor of academic success.
  • The Equity Office supports City Schools’ Equity Policy – “Together with a taskforce of community leaders and partners, City Schools has developed an equity policy that was presented to the Board of School Commissioners' Policy Committee on March 19, 2019.”
  • The Office of Equity includes six employees, not three.

Ms. Klacik questioned the salary and oversight of the chief executive officer:

  • The Board of School Commissioners is responsible for the oversight of the CEO. It issued the following statement in April to WBFF-TV: “Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises has been an incredible champion for City Schools for more than 6 years. Our CEO is worth every cent of her salary. Her salary is commiserate with her experience, skills, and education. The  CEO received a pay increase when she signed her second contract in 2020, accounting for the difference between her 2016 salary and her pay rate to date. In addition to her base pay of $339,000, the CEO has received the same cost-of-living increases as other City Schools employees.”




May 23, 2022
We respond to Project Baltimore's requests (WBFF-TV)

Between May 2-20, 2022, WBFF-TV has aired a series of stories documenting challenges faced by students that require private duty nurses. As the nation faces a shortage of nurses and medical professionals, City Schools has worked to provide appropriate educational support for students until a nurse is assigned.

Accurate and clear information is key to understanding what is happening and how City Schools is responding. WBFF-TV's limited scope and methods may leave stakeholders with an incomplete picture of the situation. To best aid our community, City Schools will post its full statements to WBFF-TV, as well as clarifications of the station's statements and coverage, here. 

Most recent statement
June 4, 2022 – Claim about grading

"The claim is false - that is not a district directive. The regulation for Board Policy IKA - Grading and Reporting is clear: 'City Schools follows the guidelines set forth by the Maryland State Department of Education regarding attendance and credit earning.'

WBFF-TV has again demonstrated an eagerness to allow unrelated parties to offer factually-challenged assertions to prop up a failed narrative. We have requested documentation from WBFF-TV numerous times to determine how it validated the former employee's claims; the news station was unable to provide that information. However, in its April 25 statement to WBFF-TV, City Schools noted an instance where a school was forced to take corrective action when it entered grades and attendance incorrectly.

Teachers and school staff must follow Board Policy IKA and its regulation. If an employee violates that policy, they are subject to progressive discipline up to termination."

City Schools submitted replies to WBFF-TV requests on the following matters:

  • May 23, 2022 - Virtual learning
  • May 16, 2022 – Pimlico student
  • May 11, 2022 – Nurses
  • May 9, 2022 – More Nurses
  • May 9, 2022 – Charter review
  • April 25, 2022 – Follow up on CEO comment
  • April 22, 2022 – CEO Comment


  • May 9 - "Stokes, a former City Council member, says the charter review process is supposed to be about student success, but it’s not. A Project Baltimore investigation may support that allegation."
May 1, 2022
Former government affairs director co-ops teachers’ recognition, grossly misstates the facts

Adam Dubitsky, a former Maryland government relations staffer, replied to a May 1 post on City Schools’ Twitter channel (@baltcityschools) recognizing Teacher Appreciation Week (May 1-5). In his reply, Dubitsky took the celebratory moment to make an unsupported claim regarding the academic proficiency of students.

Dubitsky wrote “9 of 10 students aren't even proficient at grade level…,” which is false. Fortunately, very few people paid attention to his unsupported reply.

As a public institution, City Schools supports the right of any individual to share their opinions about our work. However, it’s important that accurate information is part of those discussions. Below is a summary of important achievement indicators both before and since the onset of the pandemic.

  • ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS AND MATH PERFORMANCE - From 2016 to 2019, City Schools recorded multi-year increases in student achievement on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment used to assess whether students are meeting Maryland’s College and Career-Ready Standards expectations by grade-level. For example:
    • City Schools demonstrated academic performance improvement for the “all students group” for ELA and Math on the most recent 2019 MD Report Card for elementary, middle and high schools.
    • City Schools doubled the number of schools that improved their English Language Arts scores during that period, from 40 to 106 schools.
    • ​​​​​​​English Language Arts gains over three years - white students (9.2 percentage points); black students (4 percentage points); and LatinX students (8.7 percentage points)
    • ​​​​​​​Math gains over three years - white students (6.4 percentage points); black students (.2 percentage point); and LatinX (1.8 percentage points)


  • KINDERGARTEN READINESS - According to data submitted to the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) in 2019-2020, the 3,600 children enrolled in City Schools pre-kindergarten classroom, either traditional or Judy Center, were between nine to 33 percentage points more likely to be ready for kindergarten than students in other environments in Baltimore City, such as a third-party childcare center, a family childcare center, home care, or another public setting.


  • ATTENDANCE - City Schools’ attendance rate was more than 87 percent annually from 2017 to 2020 and chronic absence had declined to its lowest level since 2016 at 36.2%.



  • FOUR YEAR DROP-OUT RATE - The four-year drop-out rate has decreased for three consecutive years - 15.9 percent in 2019; 13.1 percent in 2020; and 12.5 percent in 2021.


  • FOUR-YEAR GRADUATION RATE - City Schools four-year graduation rate increased to 72.2 percent in 2018, the year before changes in the state’s graduation assessment requirements, which decreased our graduation rate to 70.2 percent. Since then, the district’s four-year graduation rate has remained within one percentage point of 70 percent year-over year, even during a crippling pandemic.


  • ENROLLMENT - Even with the challenges of the pandemic, our enrollment total has been stable over the last two years following five years of decline (from 2015-2016 to 2019-2020). Many of the trends observed before the pandemic are returning to similar levels regarding entry and exit patterns for the district. Looking at entry and exit, overall, there was less movement at the beginning of SY2021 than in the current school year or in SY1920 before the pandemic.
    • ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​This school year, our pre-K enrollment grew by nearly 34 percent. There are 3,766 students this year, compared to 2,816 the previous year. We experienced a sharp decline in our pre-K enrollment during the previous two school years due to the pandemic and the shift to distance learning. While we are not back to our historical numbers, we did see a significant increase (of nearly 34%).
February 22, 2022
Salary Update - Background

Each school year, Baltimore City Public Schools publishes its employee salaries on its website – view it here. The information includes employee names, salaries, positions, hire date, and any additional earnings such as overtime and benefits earnings (Ex. cashing in benefit time).

The currently posted information captures earnings from October 16, 2020, to October 14, 2021, for active employees as of October 14, 2021, and reflects actual salaries as of October 14, 2021. (Note: hourly salaries are not annualized.)

If you have questions about this database, please email

In a spirit of transparency, City Schools is noting the following:

  • The Chief Executive Officer received regular earnings more than $42,000 above her base salary. This is due to a provision in her contract that allows her to cash out unused vacation days per year.  
  • Eighty-five of the more than 10,600 City School employees listed in the database made at least $150,000 in total earnings. This group represents less than 0.8 percent of all employees. 
  • Eleven employees (excluding subs and temps) earned at least $30,000 more than their salary. This may be due to occurrences such as reassignments to lower-paying jobs, additional work assignments, stipends, summer pay, or sick leave conversion.
  • Approximately 63 Teachers earned at least $15,000 more than their salary. This may be due to occurrences such as reassignments to lower-paying jobs, stipends, summer pay, or sick leave conversion.
  • Seventy-eight employees (excluding temps and subs) totaled additional earnings of at least $20,000. The highest additional earning was $94,000 for an employee who was reassigned from a 12-month to a 10-month job title resulting in a cash out of their vacation time. 
  • Approximately 25 City School Police officers earned more than $25,000 in overtime. However, some of those costs were not directly incurred by City Schools. Some costs were recovered through reimbursements from other governmental entities; for instance, where City Schools police provided support at professional football games, elections, and COVID-19 testing sites. 
February 15, 2022
Information on COVID testing consent forms

Baltimore City Public Schools has received several requests regarding the number of COVID Awareness and Testing Consent Forms returned by families to date. Weekly testing is required for all students, and the forms must be signed and returned for students to participate in testing offered by City Schools. Families may opt out of the City Schools testing program, in which case, they are required to obtain regular COVID testing results in line with City Schools’ policies.

City Schools has assembled a spreadsheet with the number (unduplicated count) of students in each school or program with consent forms on file as of February 15, 2022. Please scroll lower to access the link. 

The spreadsheet shows the individual school, enrollment at the school or program as of the date the data was pulled, and the number of students with consent forms on file. 

The process for obtaining and maintaining student consent forms has been managed at the school level. City Schools has prioritized administering thousands of tests each week rather than ensuring a complete, up-to-date centralized count of consent forms, disaggregated by school.

For proper context, please review the following notes (as of February 15, 2022):

  • Signed consent forms are on file for approximately 61,558 of 77,003 students.
  • Overall, more students enrolled in City Schools have consent forms on file than many other school systems. 
  • We have previously stated that a lower percentage of high school students have participated in our testing program than those in elementary/middle schools.
  • The three virtual learning programs (schools 895, 896, 897) are included in the district total. However, because the program is virtual, most students are not tested because they do not attend classes in person.
  • There are a few schools that still have some additional paper copies of consent forms that they are in the process of uploading into City Schools’ student information system due to staffing and other resource constraints. The Office of School Operations is working with those schools to obtain updated counts.
  • School 884 is not a traditional campus – it’s a school for incarcerated youth.


The spreadsheet, which contains data as of February 15, 2022, is located here.

February 14, 2022
Child First Authority remains a City School partner (The Baltimore Sun)

On January 10, The Baltimore Sun published a story titled “As Baltimore City school leaders propose permanently closing 4 more schools, activists and others speak out.” The report references how community leaders felt about proposals to close specific schools as part of City Schools’ Annual Review process.

(NOTE: Some of the proposals - such as proposed closures of Dr. Bernard Harris Elementary School - were ultimately removed from consideration. The Board of School Commissioners voted on other schools listed in the article.)

In the article, The Sun paraphrased a comment about why some schools, like Dr. Bernard Harris Elementary were being considered for closure. The paraphrased statement read:

“Over the years, key programs such as Child First, a nonprofit group that provides supports such as after-school programs to schools, were moved to another school, a sign of the disinvestment, Trotman said.”

The paraphrase did not include the critical context needed to understand what occurred.


Child First Authority, Inc. currently has out of school time programs at 14 campuses in City Schools and is the community schools non-profit partner at 10 of those schools. These programs offer an effective way to support students and families. There are no plans to scale back this programming.

Only a single program - Dr. Bernard Harris Elementary School – has been closed.  For the past six years, the program had been funded annually by a $351,185 21st Century Community Learning Center grant through the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE). The final year for the grant was the 2020-2021 school year, and MSDE did not renew it.

Child First Authority, Inc. could not identify the funding necessary to continue the program at Dr. Bernard Harris Elementary School. However, the 14 other programs at City Schools campuses remain in operation.

February 2, 2022
Fox News’ Tucker Carlson ignores and distorts grading, student arrests, and graduation facts

On February 2, 2022, the Fox News network posted an opinion piece by Tucker Carlson that included three heavily distorted claims regarding Baltimore City Public Schools. The statements were based on interpretations of recent stories by WBFF-TV (Fox 45).

All of Carlson’s claims lack total citations and require clarification and correction.

Claim No. 1 – Carlson half-heartedly cited a WBFF-TV report about fall 2021 i-Ready scores at Patterson High School to frame this series of questions: “So, the kids can’t read, they’re illiterate, what is their future look like? What does Baltimore’s future look like? What does the country’s future look like? How are they going to participate in our society?”

The truth: WBFF-TV posted City Schools’ complete response to the WBFF-TV. Carlson failed to use any part of it. The response, posted here, includes the following critical information:

As we previously stated to WBFF-TV, i-Ready scores do not provide a complete or final picture of student performance. City Schools uses i-Ready to provide checkpoints on student progress during the school year. This was the first in-person checkpoint for students at Patterson High School after 18 months of disruption caused by the pandemic. For some students, their previous in-person experience was in middle school during their seventh-grade year.

Over 40% of participating students were classified as English language learners and did not receive the accommodations they would receive on state-required assessments such as the Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP). 

Claim No. 2 – Carlson distorted a WBFF-TV report about reduced numbers of student arrests, stating the following: “public school administrators have instructed the police to stop arresting students for committing crimes. And that would include serious offenses from burglary to assault. So the cops did stop arresting kids. The number of students arrested in Baltimore schools has dropped by 98% in the last decade.” Again, Carlson failed to include City Schools’ response.

The truth: City Schools Police were not ordered to stop arresting students for crimes. As the data demonstrates, arrests continue to occur when appropriate. The decrease in student arrests results from a strategy recognized as a national model. This included changes to how we select officers and those we retain, where they are assigned, and engaging officers in relationship-building work such as mentoring, coaching, running summer camps. While some naysayers such as Carlson would prefer we arrest every student, we have used relationships and mentoring to address the real issue that leads to misconduct.

Claim No. 3 – Carlson flailed in explaining City Schools’ decision not to penalize high school seniors that struggled during the worldwide COVID-19. Based on nothing more than a soundbite, Carlson said, “Baltimore’s so-called chief academic officer - that would be Harvard educated bureaucrat called Joan Dabrowski - announced that this policy was designed to quote Avoid the punitive approach of failing students. OK. But somebody is failing students in Baltimore.”

The truth: Carlson’s statement uses a bushel of hyperbole and distortion and ignores the data. First, Chief Dabrowski shared our policy with a media outlet, but City Schools decided to implement the policy. She is Harvard-educated, meaning we have a highly qualified head of academics. That’s a good thing!

Further, the strategy to not fail seniors did not mean they automatically graduated. The state of Maryland has firm requirements for graduation that school districts cannot supersede. If Carlson had researched the issue, he would have learned that more than 500 seniors participated in summer classes and could meet the state’s requirements for a diploma. We shared a story here.

January 4, 2022
Post-news conference questions (The Real News Network)

On January 3, 2022, Lisa Snowden-McCray of The Real News Network submitted a series of follow-up questions based on a news conference hosted by City Schools featuring elected officials. The topic was the return to in-person learning following the district’s winter break.
Her questions are italicized. Our answers are below, with numbering aligned with the original question.

1.    What, if anything, have City Schools officials done to begin preparing students and teachers who suffer from long COVID? Have school officials begun considering what it can mean to have more students with long-term illness that could have an effect on learning?

2.    Are schools doing anything to make sure that students, teachers, and school staff have access to better quality masks such as the N95s that many doctors have been in favor of?

3.    The messaging I heard from Dr. Santelises and other local leaders sounded very similar to messaging I heard from other Democratic leaders in other parts of the country. How is the Biden administration involved with these decisions? Is there scripting that is going out?

Responses from City Schools

1.    Prevention is the best way to protect against the effects of COVID-19, including vaccinations, booster shots, and regular testing. City Schools provides testing and coordinates with community partners on vaccination and booster clinics for students and staff members.

2.    Currently, we have no plans to purchase N95 masks. Based on our ongoing conversations with health experts, the best mask is a mask that fits well, is comfortable, and that people will wear consistently. At the start of the 2021-22 school year, City Schools provided high-quality masks to staff and students that comply with health guidelines (2 layers of tightly-woven fabric with adjustable straps to ensure a snug fit). In addition, City Schools continues to ensure disposable surgical masks are on-site and available at our schools for students or staff who forget their masks.

3.    City Schools has consistently stated that the most effective learning environment is in a classroom, before and during the pandemic. We’ve previously made this point concerning inclement weather closures and throughout 2020-21 as we prepared for the return of students in-person. Our messaging is developed in-house and does not come from a political party or the White House.

December 22, 2021
Pooled COVID-19 testing during the week of Dec. 20, 2021

City Schools is committed to its nationally-recognized COVID-19 testing and screening program. Each week, more than 50,000 tests are conducted in our district. In the last 10 days (as of 12/22/21), we have recorded 510 cases of COVID-19 among our 87,783 students and staff.

This week, schools were scheduled to be open three-and-a half days. City Schools suspended pooled testing for this week because the testing process requires at least five days.

Our ability to notify families about test results was also a factor. PCR testing appointments are offered over two days— with results returned within 48 hours. Unfortunately, there’s not enough time to complete pooled testing without leaving families with inconclusive results.

City Schools will provide an update in the coming days on how testing will resume after Winter Break. Thank you so much for being so supportive, and stay safe!

September 1,2021
Response to Governor Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot

Baltimore City Public Schools is successfully implementing the air conditioning plan approved by Gov. Larry Hogan in 2017. The plan calls for all school buildings to be air conditioned by the 2022-2023 school year, depending on approvals and the availability of state funding. City Schools is on track to meet that goal. There would be no plan and five-year timeline if the governor did not approve it first, yet he continually denies his role.

City Schools reduced the number of schools without air conditioning from 75 schools in 2017 to 21 schools as of August 30, 2021. That is 54 additional schools with air conditioning since the plan was approved four years ago, along with necessary upgrades to electrical systems and windows. Yet the governor repeatedly states that the plan he approved is not successful.  

If the governor is criticizing the plan, then he cannot dismiss his role in making it a reality. He approved our air conditioning plan in 2017. City Schools is accountable to the community for implementing the plan the governor supported, and we are making progress on the plan. 

August 6, 2021
We protect student transcripts by following the law (Fox 45)

On Monday, August 2, the WBFF-TV (Fox 45) aired a report titled “City Schools Denies Records Request, Still No Answers in Augusta Fells Probe.” The story references the media outlet’s request for transcripts for students at “Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts for the 2018, 2019, and 2020 school years.” (quotation references the outlet’s official MPIA request).

In its on-air and website stories, WBFF-TV references yet paraphrase our denial of the request. However, they omitted our five-page response’s full contents and offer to explore alternative means of responding. View the letter here. After City Schools questioned the omission, the reporter offered to include the full story on the WBFF website. 

In summary, we denied the request because:
There are federal laws that protect students’ records from public disclosure.  According to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a student’s education record is confidential and protected from disclosure.
Releasing a student’s transcript violates their right to privacy under federal and Maryland law.  Because transcripts contain a wealth of personal and confidential information about a student’s academic history and status, the simple redaction of a student’s name will not guarantee prevention of a student from being individually identified.  Please review this article, “With FOIA, Redacting Student Names Will Not Always Protect Student Privacy,” for a better understanding.

Students’ schedules are often individualized to their particular course needs, academic pathways, and interests. Transcripts for older students covers multiple years, which means it is even more likely that there are unique or there are only a few students, whose schedules over multiple years will be identical. Sharing a transcript, even after redacting obviously personally identifiable information (name, address, etc.), will result in a high likelihood that the student can be identified, especially to others in the school community.

In addition to airing the story, we understand Fox 45 and its corporate parent have engaged in a polling campaign to the city’s public officials (see attached example screenshot) regarding the MPIA request discussed above and the CEO’s employment.


August 4, 2021
Permits are required to store and distribute food

On Tuesday, August 3, the Baltimore Brew published an article stating that City Schools closed the Liberty Recreation Center citing unsatisfactory conditions.                                   

Here are the facts: 

  • City Schools received multiple complaints alleging unsanitary conditions in the recreation center and other issues. We also learned of a May 20 complaint to the Health Department about the food-related activities at the site through 311.
  • On July 8th, City Schools conducted an inspection of the site and found it to be unsanitary, including food stored improperly and food in poor condition. 

The article states that the site was not previously required to obtain a license from the Health Department. This is correct. However, the complaints led to the City Schools site visit that revealed  food was being stored on site.  Storing food in a food service facility requires a license from the Commissioner of Health based on Baltimore City Health Code. On July 19, Ms. Trueheart was notified of the findings of the investigation via phone call and letter and given until July 30 to address all the issues including applying for the appropriate permits. 

The article also states that we offered Ms. Trueheart the opportunity to discuss the original complaint from the community member. This is accurate; however, upon our own review of the conditions of the site we decided to summarize the community complaint in our letter and include in the July 19 letter our direct findings. Both before and after sending the July 19 letter we held several phone calls with Ms. Trueheart about the contents of the letter and offered assistance to help her address the conditions of the site. She did not take advantage of the offer. She was also encouraged to respond in writing addressing line by line how she would address each of the findings.  

The article states that the Liberty Recreation Center is shut down and needed to close because “currently in-person use of City Schools facilities are restricted".  That is inaccurate. In fact, the letter refers to the recreation center’s access to the Liberty Elementary school gym where in-person learning is taking place. All school buildings, not the recreation center, have restricted in-person community activities based on the district’s Summer Field and Building Guidance.

Ms. Trueheart was advised to remove food from the premises and to apply for the license from the Baltimore City Health Department to distribute and store food. Other non-food activities by her organization were unaffected and there are other partners continuing activities in the recreation center. Once the food has been removed and the site is in compliance with all Health Department requirements, Ms. Trueheart may resume food distribution only immediately. She may store food once she has been approved for the Health Department license that allows her to do so.

City Schools believes in the value of quality recreational spaces to the community, but we must also protect the health and safety of our community. Health and safety procedures are in place to ensure and they must be followed to make sure all parties are protected. 

City Schools letter to Liberty Rec Center and Ms. Trueheart's response

July 20, 2021
Newt Gingrich and others misstate facts about HS student GPAs

On July 12, 2021, WBFF-TV (Fox 45) aired a story about student grade point averages in the first, second, and third quarters of the 2020-2021 school year. The report stated that 41 percent of high school students earned a grade point average of 1.0 or less in the third quarter.

Several media outlets and media personalities, such as former congressman Newt Gingrich via his Twitter account on July 17, have misstated the facts and content from that story. Some of these assertions were made without any discernable research or in support of an ideological narrative. Two of Mr. Gingrich's comments were particularly notable and required clarification and correction.

First, the following is a statement from City Schools in response to WBFF-TV's questions before it aired the story:

"Consistent with the experience of many school districts across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic created significant disruptions to student learning.  As early as the summer of 2020, City Schools identified large numbers of students with decreases in their grade point averages and classroom performance compared to past performances.

Starting this summer and beyond, City Schools is providing students with various opportunities to acquire the unfinished learning they lost. Each student's progress will be assessed, and an action plan will be developed to complete any unfinished learning. These plans will guide families and teachers in helping students get back on track."


Now, the facts:

FALSE: "41 percent of all City Schools students have a GPA of 1.0 or less"

THE FACTS: Through the third quarter of the 2020-2021 school year, 41 percent of high school students had earned a GPA of 1.0 or less. But the real story is in the timing of the data. Data for the end of the school year reflects a student's final grade and appears on their transcripts.

The most accurate indicator of student performance will appear in the final grade. This is notable because a student may take critical steps (Ex. completing missing assignments from earlier in the school year), leading to a grade higher than they recorded in previous quarters.

For example, this is similar to reporting the score of a football game in the third quarter as a final outcome.

City Schools will provide the community with an update in the coming weeks on the final performance of high school students during SY 2020-21. But Mr. Gingrich's assertion ignores important context and paints a picture that ultimately may be proven false.


HIS STATEMENT: "FORBES reports a student with a 0.13 GPA ranked in the top half of his class (62 of 120). Baltimore City spends $1.4 billion ($18,000 per student)."

THE TRUTH: Mr. Gingrich attributed his statement to another publication. However, he did so – again – without proper context.

The "0.13 GPA" statement has long been disproved. Please read our April 9 post on this page for additional information. In summary, "The transcript contained content from a single moment in time, February 2021. Transcripts are snapshots and change regularly based on student activity. Class ranks may also vary based on enrollment at the school."

Similarly, City Schools does have a total budget of nearly $1.4 billion. However, the budget is not a matter of simple division – we do not divide the total budget by the number of students in the district.

Please read our March 9 post on this webpage for an accurate and clear understanding of our per-pupil spending. Further, you may also visit our budget webpage for factual information about our spending.

City Schools welcomes public discourse and debate about student achievement and the use of the resources we are entrusted with. Our goal is to provide clear and accurate statements about our work.

April 14, 2021
The investigation at Augusta Fells Savage is ongoing

Editor’s note: Please see our March 2 post on this webpage for background.

As part of news reporting its reporting regarding irregularities at Augusta Fells Savage Institute, WBFF-TV continually claims that “questions remain unanswered” about aspects of what occurred during 2019 at the school.

In different responses to WBFF-TV, City Schools has made clear that there is an ongoing investigation into irregularities in course scheduling and inconsistencies in enrollment and grading at Augusta Fells Savage. City Schools is not prepared to share additional information immediately to ensure the investigation is conducted fairly and appropriately and with due process. We have requested that WBFF-TV pause its reporting until the investigation is completed or provide proper context. Once the investigation is complete, a more accurate picture will be available and be shared publicly.

City Schools fully intends to document the findings of the investigation directly and share them appropriately.

April 13, 2021
HS students must earn the required credits to be promoted

Editor's note: Please see our March 2 post on this webpage for background.

As part of news reporting regarding irregularities at Augusta Fells Savage Institute, City Schools has received questions regarding high school students' ability to be promoted to the next grade level. Due to the news reporting, there is some belief that high school students are promoted based on their age.

That belief is not accurate. High school students must earn the required number of credits to be promoted to the next grade level. Age is not a determination for grade-level promotion. Per Board Policy IKEA-RA, students may not be promoted to the next course or grade level without the proper credits. Every year City Schools reviews student grade levels to ensure the correct placement of students.

Credits are earned when a high school student passes a class. A student must earn 21 credits to graduate in City Schools. Similarly, a high school student must earn the required number of credits each school year to be promoted to the next grade level.

If a student does not earn the required number of credits in a given school year, they may be retained. In April 2017, City Schools revised the number and types of credits needed to be promoted at each high school grade level. For 9th grade students, the requirement for promotion increased from four credits to five credits. If a 9th-grade student does not earn five credits, they cannot advance to the 10th grade.

April 12, 2021
Students are not allowed to take certain advanced courses without passing the prerequisite

Editor's note: Please see our March 2 post on this webpage for background.

As part of its series regarding irregularities at Augusta Fells Savage Institute, WBFF-TV (Fox 45) has noted that a student's transcript appears to show the student taking advanced courses without completing the necessary prerequisite.

Students are not allowed to take certain advanced courses without passing the prerequisite.

City Schools is currently investigating irregularities in course scheduling and inconsistencies in enrollment and grading at Augusta Fells Savage Institute in 2019. City Schools does not comment publicly on the education records of individual students.

In general, students must complete certain pre-perquisite courses before advancing to the advanced course. For example, Algebra I must be completed before Algebra II. Also, foreign language courses must be taken sequentially.

There is an exception: English III can be scheduled before or concurrently with English IV.

April 9, 2021
The “ranked 61 of 120” narrative is false and ignores context

Editor's note: Please see our March 2 post on this webpage for background.

As part of its series regarding irregularities at Augusta Fells Savage Institute, WBFF-TV (Fox 45) has regularly described the class rank of a student as "61 of 120". The statement is based on a copy of the student's transcript they reviewed. 

The transcript contained content from a single moment in time, February 2021. Transcripts are snapshots and change regularly based on student activity. Class ranks may also vary based on enrollment at the school.

There is also important context necessary to understand their statement best:

  • The group of students (the "120") included both repeating and incoming 9th-grade students at Augusta Fells Savage when the transcript was generated.
  • Repeating students had earned a GPA and were ranked based on that figure. Several incoming students had yet to earn a GPA and thus had an official figure of 0.00. 
  • Repeating students with a GPA would have been ranked higher than incoming students that had no GPA.

Because of this context, a student with a low GPA would be ranked above a student with no GPA. Transcripts do not contain this context, which may lead to misunderstandings. City Schools is reviewing how information is presented on transcripts to avoid these challenges for students and parents in the future.

March 29, 2021
Responses to PCAB

The Parent and Community Advisory Board (PCAB) submitted a series of questions to City Schools related to Board Policy IKEA and grading outcomes. 

A document summarizing those responses may be found here: PCAB Question Responses

March 9, 2021
We do not have the 4th highest per pupil spending in the US

Regularly, some civic leaders and news outlets quote U.S. Census Data from 2015 or 2018 that places City Schools per-pupil spending as some of the highest in the country. The commentary regularly does not provide proper context.

Below is a primer regarding per-pupil spending by City Schools.

  • The statement that Baltimore’s per-pupil spending is the fourth highest in the nation is misleading and fails to provide substantive context for the ranking.
  • The “4th highest” claim comes from 2015 census data that looks at only 100 large school districts by enrollment. There are more than 13,000 school districts in the nation; Baltimore ranks at about 2,400 in per-pupil spending in the overall group.
  • The “4th highest” claim obscures the underlying issue of adequate funding. Review of the state’s funding formula reveals that Baltimore’s spending is comparable to other Maryland districts but falls short of adequacy when factoring in the composition of the district’s student population. 
    • Baltimore has the highest concentrations of students in poverty and the highest percentage of students with disabilities in the state.
    • By the state’s own analysis, City Schools should have received $290 million more each year under the current formula.
    • A state-commissioned report indicates the district needs $358 million more to ensure adequacy for the city’s students.
  • While at first glance City Schools’ pupil funding may appear high, it’s important to understand the broader context of the impact of the investments the district is forced to subsidize – such as special education, pre-k, transportation, etc. 
  • Special Education: City Schools currently spends about $300 million dollars annually to provide special education services to our students, yet we only receive approximately $80 million for this expense under the current education funding formula. 
    • This means that general education funds have to subsidize special education costs by about $200 million per year. This alone equates to one-sixth of City Schools’ entire budget.
  • Full-Day Pre-k: Despite the fact that pre-k received no funding from the state, City Schools began an aggressive pre-k expansion in 2007-08, increasing seats by 50% and phasing in full-day programs districtwide.
    • City Schools’ pre-k investment has cost the district about $35.7M annually. 
    • The investment has paid off: Children who attend City Schools' pre-k programs consistently demonstrate readiness for kindergarten at rates that meet or beat their peers statewide.
    • The state began to fund pre-k programs for the first time in FY18 – though only at an initial rate of 50% of the base per-pupil amount received for older students, with no weighting to meet the needs of young learners with disabilities or those learning English. The rate increased to 75% of base in FY19 and 100% in FY20.
    • City Schools covers the balance from operating funds, effectively reducing the per-pupil amount provided for older students.
March 4, 2021
Student Support at School (Fox 45)

Background: Fox 45's Project Baltimore aired a story with allegations from a parent at Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts that she was not informed of her student's attendance and academic challenges. She questioned what steps City Schools takes to notify families. Our response is as follows: On Monday, March 1, WBFF-TV (Fox 45) aired a story about a student in the ninth grade at student at Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts (AFS). 

City Schools' efforts to address academic irregularities in course scheduling and inconsistencies in enrollment and grading at Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts (AFS) began before this news story and have been ongoing. 

City Schools initially identified the irregularities during a review of seniors’ records at AFS in Summer 2019. The concerns were elevated, and an investigation was launched in August 2019 and is ongoing. 

At that time, City Schools made several steps to address potential root causes of the issues.  

  • Summer 2019 – While the investigation was pending, AFS noted other concerns during Summer Graduation, and a small number of students were not allowed to graduate. Those students were given individual action plans. 
  • September 2019 – The principal and assistant principal were placed on administrative leave. A managing assistant principal was identified for the remainder of the school year. 
  • Spring 2020 – A review of individual student transcripts was conducted for AFS students, starting with seniors. Families received a personalized communication – mailed letters and phone calls - with an update on their progress toward graduation. The letters were sent before summer school so that students could enroll in summer school if necessary. 
    • If we identified a concern, we offered parent conferences to discuss a timeline and plan for graduation 
  • Summer 2020 - City Schools appointed an experienced and transformational principal at AFS. Under this new leadership, City Schools continues to review student transcripts and directly contact students' parents with concerns.   

Regarding the student, staff communicated via mail, phone calls and home visits to discuss the student’s particular situation before any news story appeared.  We have worked with the family and student to make changes that meet his individual needs, and we will continue to support him to get back on track with his high school education.   

City Schools is committed to honest, accurate, accessible, and transparent communications to parents and families about students' performance and will continue to be vigilant in reviewing student records to identify and address concerns. We will continue to work with families to support students at Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts on the path to graduation and career readiness. 

March 2, 2021
Parent concern about Augusta Fells Savage Institute student (Fox 45)

Background: Fox 45's Project Baltimore aired a story on March 1 with allegations from a parent at Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts that she was not informed of her student's attendance and academic challenges. She questioned what steps City Schools takes to notify families. Our response is as follows:

Our goal is to provide resources and support to students and their families struggling with academic or attendance challenges. We hold schools and staff members accountable if that does not occur, including making appropriate staffing changes to improve outcomes.

City Schools does not publicly discuss the individual academic or attendance records or data of its students. However, City Schools has taken multiple steps with the student's family to support the young man, including:

  • In summer 2020, students at Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts received a letter explaining their academic status.
  • Per Board Policy, teachers will provide students and parents with information about student achievement by regularly updating grades using Campus Portal. All families have access to this tool. In many cases, the school or teacher will notify the student of a potential course failure and allow work to be made up to support the student. Schools also provide parents the option for a conference following each report card.
  • Anytime a student is absent from a class, the student's family receives an automated phone call at their listed number advising the missed time. If necessary, families may respond to the call by noting if the absence meets the criteria to be excused.
  • School staff also attempted to contact the student's family. The school later mailed a letter and conducted a home visit. Ultimately, the student's parent visited the school and met with its leadership.
  • The student's family has met with or talked recently with school and district level staff. regarding the student's progress.


  • Communication is important. If a student has poor attendance or the school cannot contact the family and develop an intervention, the student may fail the course, which may alter their ability to graduate.
  • School leadership is also key to ensuring the appropriate interventions take place. City Schools requires leadership that will effectively address student academic performance and support. City Schools is reviewing actions that impacted student outcomes at the Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts before the 2020-2021 school year. Additionally (and separately from recent events at Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts), City Schools will take prudent steps to intervene, including school leadership changes, to ensure our standards for student achievement are uniformly and consistently achieved throughout the district.

Children between the ages of 5 and 18 must attend school — it's the law. If an absence occurs, the student's family receives a daily automated phone call advising of the absence. If necessary, families may respond to the call by noting if the absence meets the criteria to be excused. Otherwise, the absence is recorded as unexcused.
Students who are absent for 10% or more of school days are considered chronically absent. If a student is chronically absent, the following interventions should occur:

  • The school calls the family to check in and understand what issues may be contributing to the absence so that appropriate supports may be provided. This outreach may also occur through emails, text messages, and sometimes social media when phone calls fail. Communication may break down if the family's contact information has changed or they cannot be contacted.
  • When making outreach efforts, a meeting will be scheduled with the family to develop a plan to provide support around attendance. Where appropriate, this may be a Student Support Team or IEP meeting.
  •  If these outreach efforts fail, a home visit should be conducted to check on the student and arrange for a follow-up meeting with the school.
  • If the absences continue, then the school should send a letter to the family to notify the family of the number of school days missed and again attempt to set up a meeting with a school representative.
  • If the school is unsuccessful in their outreach efforts, the district's office may be contacted to assist in reaching out to the student or the family.

Truancy is a legal term used to identify students who have missed more than 20% of school days (about 3.5 days per month) without a lawful reason.

If a student has missed 15 days of school without a legal reason, the school may make a truancy referral to the district office. At that point, the district office issues a letter of concern to the family and conducts a case review to determine if due diligence has been done in trying to reach the family and support the student’s re-engagement in school. The district office also monitors the student’s data to determine if the letter of concern has an impact on the student’s attendance.

If the district determines that the school has made every effort to work with the family and offer support but that the student has continued accruing unexcused absences, charges will be filed against the parent or guardian in district court.

January 22, 2021
The truth about our air ventilation and vaccination efforts

On January 21, The Baltimore Brew published an article about community responses to our air purification plan. The article is “Parents and teachers fear that portable air purifiers won’t make Baltimore schools safe for reopening”.

The article contained several points that require additional context or citations.

  • “School officials acknowledged that a program to administer Covid-19 vaccines to teachers and staff would likely stretch over 20 weeks…”
    • This statement is not correct. City Schools did not make this estimate or statement. This statement was made by Dr. Gabe Kelen of Johns Hopkins Medicine. The figure is based on the duration of time needed if only 500 teachers are vaccinated per week through the Johns Hopkins vaccination collaboration. As of January 22, 2021, City Schools has invited nearly 3,500 employees to be vaccinated.
    • The Johns Hopkins vaccination collaboration prioritizes employees currently working at in-person learning sites, not all teachers. 
    • There are 5,000 classroom teachers in City Schools. If you count both BTU-affiliated teachers and related service providers, the figure increases to 6,000 employees. The math used in the report incorrectly assumes we have 10,000 teachers.
    • City Schools is also seeking and developing other collaborations to provide vaccinations. For instance, the district entered into a separate partnership with the University of Maryland Medical System the week of January 8, 2021, to provide vaccinations at the 8 schools they are serving.
    • As vaccinations continue, there will be other opportunities to increase the pace of vaccinations for teachers overall, focusing on those working at in-person learning sites.
  • A Baltimore Teachers Union representative asserts that "portable units will not provide the level of safety needed in aging buildings with poor airflow and in newer structures whose windows cannot be opened".
    • This statement is not correct. City Schools is implementing recommendations from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) on proper airflow. It encourages combinations of higher efficiency mechanical filters and HEPA air purifiers to help mitigate infectious aerosols' transmission. The guidance may be viewed here.
    • City Schools is reviewing proposals to have carbon monoxide monitors installed in our schools so the public can have a better understanding of our air exchange rates.
    • The 21st Century buildings have very effective air ventilation systems because they are new structures and are designed to operate with windows that do not open.
  • City Schools responded Wednesday night with a tweet of workers unpacking air purifiers due to The Brew’s article earlier in the week.
    • That assertion is false. City Schools is proud of the progress it is making in installing air purification equipment. As educators, we believe in showing our work.

The truth about our air ventilation efforts:
Based on our current inventory, we have enough purifiers to support over 50% of students to return to schools that are scheduled to receive MERV 13 upgrades and support schools that will only receive purifiers. The district expects 20-25% of students to return to in-person classes.

September 21, 2020
Grade adjustments at Calverton Elementary (Fox 45)

Fox 45, in its series about emails about past grading adjustments in City Schools, is reviewing emails from January 2019 that document discussions that occurred at Calverton Elementary School. The emails capture some discomfort on the part of an employee to a potential change. 

City Schools updated Board Policy IKA and its associated regulation more than 14 months ago, in May 2019, to provide staff and schools with additional guidance when an update to a student’s grade is needed. The updated policy also provides teachers and families with multiple avenues to register concerns if they disagree with the grade change process. The changes include a mandate that principals confer with teachers before changing a grade and a requirement that principals notify the teacher in writing if a grade is adjusted.
The original version of Board Policy IKA, adopted in 2011 and in line with MDSE guidelines at the time, provided schools autonomy to individualize their processes for changing a student’s grade. The unintended consequence was a lack of consistency and clarity for principals, teachers, and staff.  The email exchange from Calverton in January 2019 helps make clear why additional guidance was required.
There was no violation of Board Policy IKA at Calverton because schools could set their own rules to review a student’s grade per the 2011 version of the policy. However, we did come to understand the policy didn’t provide enough guidance or direction.
​To address this lack of centralized guidance, our grading policy’s updated 2019 version standardizes many aspects of our protocols related to grade changes. We want consistency in this process, so grades have the same meaning from school to school."

Note: Please review our September 14 post for additional information. 

September 17, 2020
Tweet regarding virtual learning sign-ins

On September 16, 2020, journalist Alec MacGillis tweeted comments by the City Schools CEO regarding the number of log-ins by students to virtual learning classes. The figure tweeted by MacGillis was correct based on the CEO's comments.

However, there is significant context necessary to understand what students are included in that 65 percent.

The 65-percent includes:

ONLY students that logged in using their district credentials to any of our learning platforms - Clever, Zoom, Google.

The 65-percent does not include:

  1. Students that did not log in using our our learning platforms - From Sept. 8 to Sept. 16, students could access some of those learning platforms without their district login to aid the beginning of virtual learning. As such, they may not have used their district credentials to sign in and thus were not captured by this data point.(Note:  Starting Sept. 17, students will be required to use their City Schools login. Data in the future may change significantly to correct for this variable.
  2. Students who cannot log in or do not have a laptop or internet access.
September 14, 2020
Grade Changing Allegations (Fox 45)

Summary: Since September 2017, Fox 45 has sought information regarding allegations of grade-changing within City Schools. The school district initially declined an open-records request by Fox 45 for records related to investigations regarding grade changes for the following reasons:

  1. It could have a chilling effect on the willingness of individuals to come forward in the future and thus detrimentally impact the ability of the district to thoroughly investigate future allegations thoroughly.
  2. the release of the investigation records could deprive individuals of a fair and impartial hearing should allegations be substantiated
  3. It contained confidential personnel records
  4. It contained investigations that are protected by the “deliberative process” privilege, meaning it discusses a decision had not yet been made

Fox 45 challenged that stance and the parties correctly addressed the matter in a court of law, where the judge disagreed with us. Since the judge issued her final ruling, City Schools has spent more than 3,900 work-hours producing the documents with all due effort and speed, resulting in more than 234,000 pages of documents, plus more than 50,000 emails. The news outlet is airing a series of stories based on information in those documents and emails.


Question: Did inappropriate grade changing take place?

Answer: Approximately eight of 23 total allegations were substantiated between 2010 and March 2019 - an average of around two per year. City Schools originally outlined the scope of those allegations in this statement to the community on June 4, 2019.

As of September 14, 2020:

  • There were 13 investigations started between 2010 and September 2017. Of this total, only six were substansiated.
  • An additional 10 investigations were started after September 2017 and completed by March 2019 (when the court ruled). Only two were substantiated.
  • There are three investigations still in progress. They were launched in January, August, and November 2019.

It must also be noted that changing grades are permitted, under certain circumstances, by Board Policy IKA. The policy was adopted in June 2011 and updated in May 2019.


Question: Is grade changing allowed by teachers, principals, or staff members?

Answer: Yes, per Board Policy IKA and its associated regulations. Updated guidance forms were added via Board Policy IKA-RA, were adopted on October 3, 2019.

There are valid reasons that grades may be changed after a teacher first records them: For example, a student may have done make-up work that should be included, an assignment or test may have been left out by accident, a child on long-term medical absence may be doing work through an alternative program, or a mathematical error might need to be corrected. The vast majority of grade changes are made for these and similarly legitimate purposes.

Teachers may only adjust a student’s grade when there are extenuating educational circumstances, with approval from the school principal. Principals may adjust a student’s grade after conferring with the teacher that assigned the grade. Students, parents, and teachers may appeal any change. Please read the policy for full information.


Question: Why didn’t City Schools provide Fox 45 the emails initially?

Answer: The district believed that information requested by Fox 45 constituted a personnel records; the law does not require the district to share those records. In its response to the court, the district also provided several other reasons (“exemptions”) to keep the records private: the investigations were in progress (“deliberative process”); public release of the records could deprive individuals of a fair and impartial hearing; the public release could compromise the identity of individuals participating in the investigation, deter the willingness of individuals to come forward in the future and thus detrimentally impact the ability of the district to thoroughly investigate future allegations thoroughly.


Question: What happened as a result of the allegations, whether they were proven or not?

Answer: In some cases, staff members that knowingly took part in inappropriate grade changes were addressed using internal procedures. By law, discipline against employees cannot be shared publicly. More critically, City Schools identified the weaknesses in its processes and made the following changes by updates to Board Policy IKA. Beginning during the 2017-18 school year, we took the following steps:

  • Principals received detailed guidance and refresher training regarding the circumstances when grade changes were permissible and the process for changing grades
  • Mandatory training was instituted for grade reporters
  • CEO Sonja Santelises communicated message to all staff on the requirement for integrity in grade reporting
  • The Data from all schools were analyzed, and investigations were launched into five high schools where 15 percent or more of the past year’s graduating class had grade changes related to meeting graduation requirements


Question: How much time did City Schools spend to provide the information sought by Fox 45?

Answer: Attorneys spent nearly 3,900 hours working to identify files requested by Fox 45. That is equivalent to almost 488 8-hour working days.

To view the documents obtained by Fox 45 in full, please submit an MPIA request here.

September 11-13, 2020
Meal site closure story (WJZ-TV)

On September 11, 2020, City Schools closed two meal sites and issued the following statement to media:

"Effective immediately, City Schools will temporarily close the meal sites at Dr. Nathan A. Pitts-Ashburton Elementary/Middle School and Sandtown-Winchester Achievement Academy for the day. Both sites will reopen on Monday."

That same day, WJZ-TV incorrectly reported the meal site closure at Sandtown-Winchester Achievement Academy was closed due to a COVID-19 case. On September 13, 2020, City Schools requested the news outlet update the story on its website to remove the erroneous message, and notified families directly via email, automated phone call, and text.

October 13, 2020
Administrative costs (Fox 45)

On October 14, 2020, WBFF-TV (Fox 45) aired a story titled "Census: Baltimore City Schools Third Highest for Administrative Costs." In the story, the media outlet stated the following:

"The U.S. Census breaks down school spending into categories for America’s 100 largest school systems. We discovered a chunk of City Schools' money is not going to the classroom. It’s not buying books, computers or science equipment. Rather, it’s going to administrators, such as principals, assistant principals and people at North Avenue."

The statement does not provide proper context when it comes to administrative spending in City Schools. The district provided a comprehensive response to Fox 45, but only a portion was included in the story.

The following is the complete response to the story:

"The raw 2018 data in this federal government report on education funding is accurate but requires context.  
City Schools does not have one of the highest administrative costs, per pupil, of all LEAs across the country. Comparing all LEAs in the country, City Schools ranks around No. 10,600 of the more than 14,000 school districts in the country. The federal government report only considers the 100 largest school districts in the nation based upon enrollment, or less than 1% of all our total school districts nationwide.  
​Under the methodology used to develop the federal government's report, City Schools has one of the highest administrative costs of the 100 largest school districts. That point also requires proper context. ​Due to the school budgeting approach we use, many “administrative” costs for City Schools are actually student and school costs that ​we pay for centrally. "