Toward the end of 2013, the Fund for Educational Excellence embarked on an intensive study of Baltimore residents’ views on their public schools. Over the course of four months in 2014, we heard from 859 Baltimore residents representing all 55 community statistical areas (CSAs) in Baltimore City through a series of intimate conversations about schools and neighborhoods
In the Cherry Hill CSA, we heard from 23 participants. We held two ‘kitchen table conversations’ in this CSA, one at the Cherry Hill Community Presbyterian Church on April 14, 2014, and another at the Hemingway Temple on May 31, 2014. Of the 23 participants, 14 chose to submit at least some demographic data.
Some of the themes that we heard most often from participants in our discussions included:
- Participants shared their desire for increased community and parental involvement in schools. Some of the ideas shared include: hiring a community liaison who could build better partnerships with community organizations; and training and instructing school staff to actively seek out parent involvement. People also shared their belief that the district often tries to impose an agenda on the schools and neighborhoods without community input.
- There was also a call for changing the curriculum so that it focuses on valuable life skills and ensures that kids understand the basics. Participants also requested increased vocational course offerings, and that they be offered at the middle school level. This was part of a larger theme that students should have more positive options inside and outside of school.
- Respondents discussed teachers and school staff. They shared concerns that there are too many inexperienced and/or unqualified teachers, and that the current training programs offered to teachers are inadequate. Participants called for the district to pay closer attention to teacher quality and reinforce good teaching methods.