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Photos courtesy Baltimore Sun; Johns Hopkins U

What’s the best way to turn around an under-performing school?  The Maryland State Board of Education appears ready to consider some strategies that are markedly different from past practices.  One of the ideas under consideration is the creation of a special district, or a series of special districts, that would include all of the schools with students who are not succeeding.  What does that mean for local control of schools?   How would that affect Governor Larry Hogan’s plan to expand vouchers for private schools, and what will the Trump Administration’s priorities be if his nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is confirmed?

Liz Bowie covers education for the Baltimore Sun.  Dr. David Steiner is the Executive Director of the Institute for Education Policy at Johns Hopkins University.  They join Tom for the full hour to talk about the changes ahead for Maryland schools, and they take your calls, emails and tweets.

Culture Connections with Dr. Sheri Parks

Jan 3, 2017
Photo courtesy Sheri Parks

Today, our monthly installment of Culture Connections with Dr. Sheri Parks. She's the Associate Dean for Research, Interdisciplinary Scholarship and Programming at the College of Arts and Humanities, and Associate Professor, Department of American Studies, at the University of Maryland/College Park.

So, it’s the new year.  How are you feeling?  Are you optimistic that brighter days lay ahead, or are you worried about where the world is going?  Does the election of Donald Trump mean that the country has embraced his notion that America used to be great, and needs to made great again?  Or does it mean that dissatisfaction with the status quo is so deep that we were willing to elect a Disrupter in Chief? 

And how closely tied is the fate of the country to your perception of what your own fate holds in store?  Are you optimistic about your own future?  The Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen 11,000 points in the last eight years.  Unemployment is the lowest it’s been in decades.  That’s fine, but survey after survey suggests that Americans think we’re not headed in the right direction.

Dr. Sheri Parks helps us sort it all out.  She's Tom's guest for the full hour, and she takes listeners' calls, emails and tweets.

Baltimore Link

Why doesn’t Baltimore have a first-rate public transit system? Why should a major US city have one subway line, rather than an entire subway system?  And why does that single subway line not connect with the light rail? Why does Baltimore have a Streetcar Museum, but no streetcars?

Access to public transit - or the lack of it - can seriously impact the prosperity of a city.  A study at Harvard identified poor transportation options as the number one obstacle for people trying to escape poverty.  In survey after survey, college kids’ biggest compliant about Baltimore is the lack of good public transit. The New Year brings with it a renewed optimism in the future of Baltimore’s public transit.

A group called Transit Choices is a coalition of businesses, community groups, and planners who are trying to coordinate a comprehensive overhaul of Baltimore’s transportation system.  Today, Jimmy Rouse of Transit Choices, and Klaus Philipsen, an urban planner and transportation expert, join Tom in the studio for a conversation about the future of Baltimore's public transit system.

*This conversation originally aired on September 21, 2016.

The "dirtiest man on TV" Mike Rowe joins Tom to talk about rolling up his sleeves and getting down to work in some of the hardest professions on Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs and later Somebody’s Gotta Do It which aired on CNN from 2014 until May 2016.

These days Mike has turned his focus to closing the skills gap in workforce. The mikeroweWORKS Foundation. Provides scholarships for people who want to learn a high demand skill or trade. Mike says the desire to start the foundation came from meeting thousands of skilled workers who make good livings and are passionate about their careers. Many of the folks Mike shadowed on Dirty Jobs did not have advanced college degrees, he talks about why he's encouraging people to obtain a skill set in a specific vocation and why college isn't always the key to success. 


*This conversation originally aired on October 6, 2016.

Forty years ago, Baltimore was a major manufacturing center. One third of the city’s workforce was employed in factories both large and small. Today, just 5% of Charm City’s workforce earns a living making things. That decline has played out in cities across the country. 

US manufacturing employment peaked in 1979, and it’s been declining ever since, down to just 9% of the national workforce today. Baltimore's manufacturing base has suffered, just like everywhere else in the nation, from cheap labor overseas, surging imports, new technologies and a changing business climate.

Today we look at the evolving state of manufacturing in Baltimore through the lens of three innovators who’ve been working in various ways to foster a flowering of small business manufacturing and artisan craftwork, such as textiles and furniture-making.  Will Holman is the General Manager of Open Works, the $11.5-million “makerspace” that opened September 19th in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District, near Greenmount Cemetery. He’s an architect by training, and also a furniture maker. Andy Cook is the founder of the "Made in Baltimore" campaign, a project of The Baltimore City Planning Department’s Office of Sustainability. "Made in Baltimore" is partnering with the Urban Manufacturing Alliance on a study to assess the State of Urban Manufacturing across the country. Baltimore will serve as one of the case study cities. Rasheed Aziz is here as well.  He launched the CityWide Youth Entrepreneurship Program in 2010 to work with teens in Baltimore's most distressed neighborhoods. They all join Tom in the studio.

Photo by Joan Marcus.

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom every Thursday with her reviews of local and regional stage productions. This week, her spotlight is on the touring company production of  A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, now in its final week at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore.

This romping musical tells the story of Monty Navarro, the cocky heir to a family fortune, who plots to eliminate all rivals for his inheritance, while he struggles to navigate his tangled romantic life and stay one step ahead of the law.  

The show stars John Rapson as the D’Ysquith heirs (eight of them in all!), Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro, Kristen Beth Williams as Sibella Hallward, Adrienne Eller as Phoebe D’Ysquith and Mary VanArsdel as Miss Shingle.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder won four 2014 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Direction of a Musical (Darko Tresnjak), Book of a Musical (Robert L. Freedman) and Costume Design of a Musical (Linda Cho).

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder continues at The Hippodrome Theatre through January 1, 2017. 

Photo courtesy Washington City Paper

Today, another edition of Healthwatch, our monthly series of conversations with Dr. Leana Wen, the Health Commissioner of Baltimore City.

This year, more than 300 people have been victims of homicides in Baltimore, but nearly that number died of opioid overdoses in just the first six months of 2016.  Congress has passed the 21st Century Cures Act, directing one billion dollars to target the national epidemic of opioid addiction and support new mental health research and treatment programs.  How will that affect local efforts to help people caught in the grips of drug dependency?  Dr. Wen -- the co-chair of a local group assembled to devise a comprehensive strategy, and a national leader in addressing this national dilemma -- discusses the outlook for curbing the opioid addiction epidemic.

Dr. Wen takes listener calls, tweets and emails during the conversation.

The segment concludes with Tom Hall's appreciation of some prominent Baltimoreans who passed on during 2016, whose contributions to the life of the city will be sorely missed. 

Photo by Kiirstn Pagan

Midday theater critic  J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom every Thursday with her reviews of local and regional stage productions.  This week, she's been to Everyman Theatre to see the Baltimore debut of the off-Broadway hit, playwright Colman Domingo's "Dot."

Domingo, whose other works include "Wild With Happy," and whose acting credits include a starring role in "Fear the Walking Dead," has written a touchingly comic play, set in the holiday season, about kinship, sanity, and the impact of Alzheimer's Disease on an African-American family in West Philadelphia.

Directed by Vincent M. Lancisi, "Dot" continues at Everyman Theatre through Sunday, January 8.

Paula Poundstone / Michael Schwartz

    Today, a conversation with one of America’s most celebrated comedians. Paula Poundstone has spent almost four decades blazing a unique trail in the world of standup, from improv clubs in Boston in the late 1970s to her 1992 gig as the first woman to emcee the White House Correspondents Dinner.  She’s been a regular on late night TV, won awards for her HBO comedy specials, and helped raised millions for the homeless with her standout performances at the Comic Relief concerts.  Many fans also know her from her regular appearances on NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, her voice-over roles in animated kids movies, and her off-beat essays.  Paula Poundstone joins us live from Los Angeles; we’ll talk about her career as a comedian, actress and author, and we’ll get her singular take on everything from politics, to parenting and the secrets of human happiness.


It’s been an exciting year for actors of color on the big and small screens, we spend some time talking about the television hits and misses of 2016. The #OscarsSoWhite hashtag and controversy sparked a larger conversation about the lack of diversity in film and critical recognition when not a single actor of color was nominated for an Academy Award in 2015 or 2016.