Heart of the School Awards: Join us in Celebrating Baltimore City Public Schools Principals Monday May 23rd at 6:00 at the Hippodrome Theater

Giving-back_FINALBeing a principal in an urban school district is one of the toughest and most important jobs there is. A principal is a strategic planner, staff motivator, curriculum developer, business manager, and the caring, trusted adult students turn to day after day– all rolled into one.

Spend a day with a principal and I guarantee you will understand how much respect, support, and thanks our City Schools principals deserve every day of the year.

That is why all of us at the Fund are so excited to be joining with Baltimore City Public Schools and over 40 community businesses and partners to recognize and celebrate our City Schools’ principals at the first annual Heart of the School Awards on May 23rd at the beautiful Hippodrome Theater.  The evening will include special guests along with the presentation of the Inaugural Heart of the School Awards, immediately followed by food, drink and celebration.

If you haven’t yet, please take a minute now to purchase a ticket or make a donation to the Heart of the School Awards.

Proceeds from the event will help establish a new Principal Support Fund that will provide grants to a wide variety of principal-driven projects. Principals need and deserve our support throughout the school year, and this new grant program is one way that we can help principals jump start innovative ideas that benefit students and schools across our city.

Please join the Heart of the Schools Awards celebration on May 23rd and help us show principals how much their efforts and commitment are valued by our community.


Heart of the School Awards: Thanking our exceptional principals

Behind every high-achieving school is a great principal. This is a fact borne out in national research, as well as nearly every conversation I’ve had with parents or students about their school.

logo_hotsa_colorIt’s hard to think of a more difficult – or important – job than being a principal. Creating a culture that gives every child the opportunity to thrive academically requires a high degree of leadership, dedication, motivation, and hard work — especially in an urban district like ours. The individuals who do this job well deserve our thanks.

All of us here at the Fund for Educational Excellence are excited and honored to be joining together with Baltimore City Public Schools, as well as business, foundation and community partners, to host the first annual Heart of the School Awards on May 23, 2016. This will be an opportunity to celebrate and thank all City Schools principals, and recognize a handful of exceptional leaders who have demonstrated exemplary innovation, execution, and leadership, building strong school cultures.

We need your help in getting the message out to make this event a success. Please share this email with anyone you think might be interested to let them know that nominations are now being accepted for the Heart of the School Awards. If you personally know of a principal who is excelling and should be recognized at the event, please nominate him or her! The nomination process is quick and easy and only takes a few minutes to complete at: www.HeartoftheSchoolAwards.org.

All nominations are due by February 12, 2016. Principals from every school type and grade level (elementary, middle, high; traditional and charter; alternative and specialized), are eligible.

Based on the nominations we receive, a group composed of the Fund, community members, and district staff will select finalists for the award, with winners announced at the May 23rd event. We will keep you posted on plans for the Heart of the School event as we get closer to the date.

Thank you in advance for helping us let our principals know just how much the community values their commitment to our schools and children!

Betsy Nelson named Chair of the Board of the Fund for Educational Excellence

On behalf of the Board and Staff of the Fund for Educational Excellence, I am pleased to announce that Betsy Nelson has been named Chair of our Board of Directors. Ms. Nelson takes over the Chair from Jim Mathias who has provided us with both strong leadership and direction for seven years.

Ms. Nelson served as President of the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers from 1990 through 2012, leading ABAG to a leadership role in the region and within the Regional Association of Grantmakers movement nationwide. An active and devoted member of the Baltimore community, she has served on many Boards and committees across the city lending her expertise in institutional development, as well as professional and volunteer capacities. All of us at the Fund are thrilled and honored that Ms. Nelson has agreed to share her expertise and leadership with us as the new Chair of our Board.

I also want to express the Fund’s deep gratitude to Mr. Mathias for his many years of service and guidance to the Fund. Mr. Mathias is a Partner at DLA Piper where he serves as Co-Chair, Corporate and Securities Litigation and Chair, Baltimore Litigation. He has been an invaluable advisor throughout my tenure at the Fund, and an active proponent for the development of the Fund’s new Analysis and Engagement effort. Our latest report, Building a Bright Future: Understanding College Readiness in Baltimore City Public Schools, was released earlier this week. I am so glad that he will be continuing to serve on both our Board and Executive Committee.

City Speaks: Community Voices on Baltimore Schools

Today I am very excited to share with all of you our new report, City Speaks: Community Voices on FFEE-Blog03Baltimore Schools. The report documents the results of our comprehensive, citywide listening campaign to engage the community – in all its diversity – in defining priorities for our public schools. The report highlights four key themes we heard from 859 participants across Baltimore City, as well as our recommendations for next steps.

I hope you will take a few minutes to read the report here.

The City Speaks study has been both fascinating and satisfying for all of us here at the Fund. Hearing the voices of our communities, especially their strong commitment to our students and clear desire to help improve our public education system, has been an incredibly energizing experience. I want to thank our more than 100 volunteers – hosts, facilitators and advisors – who made this effort possible.

I want to invite you to visit our dedicated City Speaks website. There you’ll find information on the top ten themes identified by participants, as well as community profiles that detail the priorities we heard in each of Baltimore City’s 55 community statistical areas.

And, be sure to check out both the op ed and article that appeared in today’s Baltimore Sun about the study.

The City Speaks report represents the first public release of the Fund’s ongoing Analysis and Engagement effort to identify and advance interventions that can significantly improve student outcomes. Our goal is to create both community demand and tangible opportunities to build a better public education system for all our students. I look forward to sharing more of this work with you in the future.

City Speaks is all about hearing people’s voices, and I hope you will help us continue this discussion on Facebook or Twitter at #cityspeaks. I look forward to your thoughts and input in the days and weeks to come.


Roger Schulman

Keeping a Promise to Today’s Kindergarteners: Baltimore Campaign for Grade Level Reading

FFEE_3-25-11_0032 - cropWhen our city’s newest students start kindergarten this year, they and their families will feel the same sense of hope and excitement that always comes with the beginning of the school year. What they may not realize is that they also represent a promise that their city will provide them with the educational opportunities they need to reach one of the most important achievement benchmarks of their school careers: reading on grade level by the end of third grade.

This is the goal of the Baltimore Campaign for Grade Level Reading, a citywide coalition committed to doubling the number of students reading on grade level by 2020. To get a sense of the scope of the problem, consider this: only 14 percent of Baltimore City fourth graders scored at the proficient or advanced reading level on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). That number should compel all of us to join with the Campaign this school year in thinking about what needs to be happening in our city and school district to allow our new kindergarteners, and all our children, to meet this third grade reading goal. For instance:

  • Working with schools and city agencies to offer quality, affordable pre-k options—especially in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty— and reaching out to parents to encourage them to enroll their children in these programs, so that our youngest students enter kindergarten ready to learn.
  • Providing a variety of safe, fun, convenient, and educational out of school opportunities for students during the school year and over the summer.
  • Giving parents the information they need to understand and track what their children should know at each grade level.
  • Asking good questions about what is happening in our schools, and holding teachers and school leaders accountable for student achievement.
  • Encouraging students to read independently and with other adults for at least 15 minutes every day of school and vacation.
  • Communicating the need to attend school every day and on time. A recent study by the Baltimore Education Research Consortium (BERC) found that students who missed 2 or more days in September were significantly more likely to be chronically absent for the year, a clear demonstration of the critical importance of establishing good attendance habits in the first 30 days of school.

Certainly, reading on third grade level is just one of many goals we need to have as we start this school year. Implementing Common Core, focusing on college readiness, improving the value proposition of high school, the 21st Century Building project, and building a stronger pool of teachers and school leaders are other critical district priorities that come to mind. But, think of how much easier many of those goals will be to achieve if we can start by saying that we were able to successfully change the educational experience that these kindergarteners, and all those that follow, had in their first four years of school.

The Fund is proud to serve as the host organization for the Campaign and we encourage all of you to get involved in this effort. Check out the website, and become part of the coalition by registering to receive newsletters, and by following the Campaign on Facebook and Twitter. Remember that the power and success of a collective action initiative rests on all of us.