Smith: Alonso Leaves Schools In Promising Posture

May 9, 2013

Credit Tom Chalkley

Praise for an outgoing Baltimore schools chief is almost certainly unprecedented. No one in the job over the last few decades has accomplished nearly as much Dr. Andrés Alonso. The very culture has been changed.

And yet the list requires the addition of one more item, and what an item it is: $1.1 billion in borrowing capacity granted recently by the General Assembly. Surely Dr. Alonso’s successes here were a key to the confidence-building effort in Annapolis.

Given all the difficulties of pushing the city forward – especially given recent financial control lapses – assembly leaders needed reassurances that this money would be well spent.

In its wisdom, the assembly approved the mega-project with a major caveat: The 50 new buildings will be built under supervision of the Maryland Stadium Authority. The rehabbing of buildings will be handled by the school department. What happened here was the building of a management structure – a structure not dependent on one person. Responsibility was spread around a bit.

At the beginning of the assembly session last January, House Speaker Mike Busch and the Senate President Mike Miller had great misgivings. Busch later became a big fan of the project and Miller supported it as well. The structure, developed during the session, won their confidence.

Alonso, to be sure, was thought to be part of the ongoing structure – though no one could have been given any guarantee that he would be here at the completion or, as it turns out, at the beginning of the project.

Alonso’s work, then, will have immediate and enduring importance. With this project green-lighted, Baltimore should have an advantage as it begins to search for the best available talent. Who wouldn’t be intrigued by the possibility of presiding over such a re-birth?

Baltimoreans should be grateful to Dr. Alonso for leaving their schools in such a promising posture.