Jonna McKone | WYPR

Jonna McKone

Reporter

Jonna covers education, youth and housing for WYPR.   She's also a documentarian, media artist and educator. Her stories and audio documentaries have been broadcast on All Things Considered, Here and Now, Marketplace, The World, Living on Earth, WAMU and Virginia Public Radio.  In 2014 Jonna was awarded an Equal Voice Journalism Fellowship.  A Maryland native, Jonna is a graduate of Bowdoin College and holds an MFA from Duke University.

A power issue at Baltimore City schools headquarters on North Avenue has knocked the system’s web site off line and snarled some plans for final exams.  

School employees, who wouldn’t give their names, say some teachers can’t get into the online tools they need to administer finals and two teachers said there were delays in administering Maryland’s High School Assessments or HSAs due to internet issues.

Headquarters school employees say the power went out at about noon yesterday, forcing them to evacuate the building through dark stairwells without the aid of an intercom system or emergency lighting.

The long-serving president of the Baltimore Teacher’s Union, Marietta English, withstood her first serious election challenge in years yesterday from Kimberly Mooney, a teacher and union representative. The unofficial results were English winning by about 180 votes out of more than 1,200 votes cast.

Mooney’s campaign focused on issues like teacher retention, reforming evaluations and building greater transparency. But others in the 6,000 member union felt the most recent contract English negotiated was a strong one and that those who are disgruntled should simply get more involved.

This spring every third grader in the city received a colorful, graphic textbook thanks to the work of graphic designer and educator Becky Slogeris.  On a rainy day, Ms. Heather Tuttle’s third grade social studies classroom at Lake Montebello Elementary in Northeast Baltimore, reads from a book written just for Baltimore City kids.

"Jane Jacobs was a writer and thinker about cities," Tawnaja Hilton reads. "Jane did not learn about cities from books or schools. Instead she learned about cities by watching people use them in every li- in everyday life."

Jonna McKone

There’s been a lot of attention focused on Baltimore’s youth in the year since Freddie Gray died. And much of that spotlight has been on Frederick Douglass High School. Images of dozens of Douglass students throwing rocks and bottles were captured on TV as protests turned violent the day of Gray’s funeral.  As part of our series, Baltimore: A Year after Freddie Gray, we look at how Douglass students are trying to take control of their own story.

Douglass students, their teachers and a group of reporters crammed into the school library on Wednesday to field questions about how the school has changed since Freddie Gray. Several students, two teachers, a school police officer and City Schools CEO Dr. Gregory Thornton, sat at the front of the room. Behind them were scrolling images of Baltimore residents photographed on city streets.  A scrum of cameras from local TV stations filmed from behind the audience. 

The first questions came from the students.

 

Public universities that serve low income students have struggled for years with low graduation rates.  Historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, including those in Maryland, face this problem especially acutely.

Three Coppin State University students, all in their mid-twenties, sit in their student union talking about the challenges of working toward a bachelor’s degree. 

"My name is William Lessane. I am 27 years old. Technically at Coppin I’m a sophomore but right on the cusp of being a junior. I am from Baltimore City, Park Heights - West Baltimore area. To be honest with you, I’ve been in college for 10 years on and off. I’ve struggled in trying to achieve the associate’s degree. Now, I’m finding new struggles in trying to achieve the bachelor’s degree."

If there’s one thing all the Democrats running to be Baltimore’s next mayor agree on, it’s universal pre-k.

MIKHAEL KALE/ CREATIVE COMMONS

It’s Fashion Month, the time when designers all over the world showcase their lines during a shifting schedule of fashion weeks.  And it's an exciting time for Zoey Washington Sheff, style adviser and owner of her teen fashion consulting company, LITTLEbird. She joins Tom to describe what you can expect from designers this spring. Plus, don’t have the time to browse malls and boutiques but still want to look great? Zoey and Tom also talk about the fashion subscription services that are changing the way people shop for clothes.

As we heard Wednesday in the first part of this series, thousands of Baltimore City eighth and fifth graders found out last week whether they got into the high school they hoped to attend, or whether they’re going somewhere else next year.  Jonna McKone looks at school choice is working for families in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Renaissance Academy, a high school of just over 300 students, occupies an old brick building in West Baltimore’s Upton neighborhood. It’s a community school, where students and their families can tap into everything from a food pantry to college course offerings to free hygiene products.

Flickr Creative Commons//David Robert Crews

Thousands of Baltimore City eighth graders found out last week whether they got into the high school they hoped to attend, or whether they’re going somewhere else next year. Same thing for fifth graders applying to middle schools. The policy is called school choice. In the first of a two-part series, we look at what is and isn’t working with school choice.

The theory behind school choice is that where you live shouldn’t dictate where you go to school. Just because you’re growing up in a poor area, you shouldn’t be limited to a badly performing neighborhood school.

Baltimore’s schools started their choice program in 2002 and during that same period began closing troubled schools and creating smaller high schools with specialized focuses.  The idea is to allow students and families to select the school that best fits them.

UMBC New Media Studio/Photo: Bill Shewbridge

Michelle Stefano is a visiting professor at UMBC and co-director of Maryland Traditions, which is part of the Maryland State Arts Council.  She joins Tom in the studio to talk about a new documentary film that features some of the residents and former workers of Sparrows Point, site of what was once the world's largest steel mill.  The steel mill is closed and the mill workers have moved on, but the economic and cultural impact of the plant's closing are still acutely felt in the community.  There are plans to redevelop the area, but before those plans come to fruition, Maryland Traditions captured some of the workers' stories in a film called Mill Stories: Remembering Sparrows Point.  There will be a free screening of the film Sunday afternoon from 2-4pm (March 6th) at the Baltimore Museum of Industry.

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