Desks for Classrooms Can Wait—Get Some Custom-Made Furniture In This Suite, Stat!


Supporters of the Baltimore city school system "have rallied from City Hall to the State House for basic necessities like working water fountains, desks, and windows for natural light," reports Erica Green of The Baltimore Sun. Perhaps they should hold their next rally at the superintendent's office. Green writes:

New furniture, a flat-screen television, decorative light fixtures, interactive white boards—these are among amenities the city school system bought during $500,000 in renovations to the central office, even as administrators decried the state of crumbling school buildings and sought funding to fix them.

The biggest project was a $250,000 face lift of an executive suite for the district's chief of information technology, who said the remodeling work was done in part to impress job candidates and repair unsafe conditions….

Other big-ticket projects include $94,000 spent on relocating employees and furnishing offices during [Superintendent Andrés] Alonso's 2011 reorganization of the central office. Upgrades like fresh coats of paint on office walls, carpeting, new furniture and cubicles were provided to relocated employees.

About $76,000 was spent to renovate the school system's board room, where the school board and other public meetings are held.

Chief of Information Technology Jerome Oberlton tells the Sun he needed to upgrade the suite because the conditions there were driving away potential employees: "I saw good people walk out the door and not come to city schools." Perhaps the classrooms would be in better shape if students, and their money, could leave as easily.

Meanwhile, score one for the press:

Some changes were made after The Sun inquired about the renovations. Roughly $41,000 in custom-made furniture was ordered for the new suite, but city school officials canceled the order. Instead, furniture was brought in from the district's warehouse, resulting in a $37,000 savings.