Midday | WYPR


Baltimore City Public Schools

Dr. Sonja Sontelises, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools, joins Midday host Tom Hall to discuss her vision for the school system. 

Dr. Santelises is no stranger to city schools and the challenges within Baltimore's public schools. She was Chief Academic Officer for the system from 2010 to 2013. Prior to that, she served as Vice President for K-12 policy and practice at The Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit focused on closing the achievement gap experienced disproportionately by low income families and families of color. 


If you’ve ever planted a flower garden, you know what’s required: planting, watering, maybe adding fertilizer and compost. And then there’s that never-ending task, weeding. But what if there were an easier way to create a beautiful, rewarding garden? There is, according to landscape designer Larry Weaner, author of "Garden Revolution: How our landscapes can be a source of environmental change." He argues that many traditional gardening practices are not just time-consuming: they’re counterproductive and harmful to the environment. When we plant species that aren’t suited to our local landscape, we set ourselves up for struggle, he says. Instead, the natural processes of native plant communities should guide us. Stop pulling weeds, retire the rototiller, and start a revolution . . . in your garden. Original air date: July 26, 2016.

  (Due to a technical issue, this podcast is missing the first 5 minutes of the show)

During the 2014-2015 school year, more than 70,000 students in Maryland were suspended or expelled from school. Some for serious offenses like fighting or bringing weapons to school, but others for cheating or disrupting class. Minority students are far more likely than whites to be suspended, and being suspended multiple times is more closely linked to dropping out than failing grades. More than six out of ten (62%) Maryland students suspended or expelled during the 2014-2015 school year were African American. Yet African American students were only 35% of enrollment in that same school year. White students made up 41 percent of enrollment and a quarter of suspensions.

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Under President Obama, drones have become this country’s weapon of choice in our fight against terrorism. Over half of the pilots now trained by the Air Force are drone pilots. Advocates say drones allow us to find and destroy our adversaries without endangering American lives. They can stay in the air for countless hours, tracking movement below, gathering information, and waiting for a good shot. But critics say drones too often kill civilians and function as a recruiting tool for terrorists. They also charge that drones operate outside the bounds of international law. How have drones changed the face of warfare? What are the ethical implications of this technology?

Thirty-five years ago, Baltimore’s inner-city neighborhoods were struggling. Manufacturing jobs that had sustained families were disappearing. The crack cocaine epidemic was intensifying the drug trade, pulling in younger users, more violent dealers. Housing projects that had offered stable homes were deteriorating. From this desperate setting a remarkable coach at one of the city’s oldest African-American high schools assembled an astonishing array of talent … and drilled them into what some say was the best high-school basketball team ever. In this hour we’ll learn about some of the characters who made it happen: Coach Bob Wade. The inimitable 5-foot-3 point guard Muggsy Bogues, and other players who became N-B-A stars. We’ll talk to Alejandro Danois, author of "The Boys of Dunbar". 

Wonder_Al / Flickr via Creative Commons

Tipping. It’s as American as that slice of apple pie on the menu. But in most states, employers pay their servers well below minimum wage. In Maryland, that means as little as 3 dollars and 63 cents an hour, with tips making up the rest. Tipped employees never know what they’ll earn, unlike the rest of us. Critics say that isn’t fair. They propose abolishing tipping. Restaurants in a few cities have begun to ban the practice in favor of higher pay...and higher prices. What would skipping the tip mean for workers, customers, and the restaurant industry? Are tips a perk of the job or an injustice? Our guests: Michael Saltsman, research director at the Employment Policies Institute, and Jay Zagorsky, economist and research scientist at The Ohio State University.

Maryland GovPics/Flickr via Creative Commons

The country’s newest and oldest civil-rights organizations are calling for a halt in opening new privately-managed charter schools. The NAACP compared expanding charter schools in poor communities to the sub-prime mortgage disaster, and expressed concerns that charters have increased school segregation rather than encouraging integration. Here in Maryland, charters are non-profits, authorized by local school boards. A third of Maryland’s pupils are African-American, but in charter schools here 4 out of 5 pupils are African American. Is that just because most of the state’s charters are located in Baltimore city? Do those who run charter schools represent public goals and values? We’ll talk to a reporter covering the national debate, a community activist and former charter school principal. 

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The Spanish flu of 1918 led to more than 500,000 deaths in this country. What if a pandemic like that were to hit now? Intensive care units are already frequently strained to capacity. If there were a severe pandemic, there wouldn’t be enough resources to go around, like life-saving ventilators. Whose lives should be saved first? Should it be first come, first serve? Should children get priority? Should we remove a ventilator from an ailing patient if a healthier person has a better chance of surviving? Should we treat healthcare workers first? A team of Maryland doctors has asked the public to weigh in on these thorny ethical decisions. 

It’s been nearly a month since the U.S. Department of Justice released its report on the Baltimore Police Department. It chronicles years of unconstitutional and discriminatory policing, especially of African-Americans. The report also exposes inadequate training and staffing, and a lack of follow-up after citizens file complaints. Now the city must draft a consent decree detailing plans for reform. We’ll talk to a reporter who’s looked at the effect of federal intervention in police departments in other cities. And we’ll meet the organizers of a town hall, scheduled for tomorrow, who want to know what the public would like to see in its police. What will it take to fix the Baltimore Police Department?

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Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed. Plato, Socrates, Hippocrates. All of them had at least one thing in common. They fasted. It turns out these influential figures were on to something, at least when it comes to health. Some scientists say that regularly abstaining from food for even short periods of time may improve health, boost brain power, and fight diseases ranging from cancer to diabetes to Alzheimer’s. It could even extend lives. The catch is that you have to periodically put down your fork. Could you permanently say goodbye to breakfast if it meant you might live longer? What about skipping all your meals two days a week? We speak to Mark Mattson, chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging, and University of Maryland molecular geneticist Steve Mount, who has been a practitioner for the last 12 years. Original air date: May 18, 2016