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Educationby Danielle Sweeney3:52 pmAug 5, 20150

Ferguson sees progress at dilapidated Cherry Hill school

State senator is closely watching the merger of two schools he said was being mishandled

Above: Missing glass panes and mold-like grime on the windows of a classroom slated for Maritime School students.

The state senator who sent an angry email to Baltimore school officials and the school board last month about poor conditions at the New Era Academy school buildings in Cherry Hill said he is seeing improvement, but still has concerns.

“I visited on Friday, definitely seeing progress but much much left to do,” Sen. William C. Ferguson IV, who represents the 46th District, said yesterday. “I’ll be back this Friday.”

Ferguson had excoriated school officials – in particular, schools CEO Gregory E. Thornton – about the buildings, located at 2700 Seamon Avenue in South Baltimore, where Maritime Industries Academy is relocating from Northeast Baltimore to merge with New Era.

Ferguson had dropped by the New Era/Maritime unannounced and said in an unusually fiery email that he was appalled at the lack of progress being made with the co-location.

He cited broken windows, mold and carpet that was so old it was a health hazard. In general, he had said, conditions were not suitable for the continuing technology education space that Maritime Industries needed.

“This was supposed to be a model CTE space,” he said. “City Schools had promised they would oversee the co-location.”

In his email, Ferguson invited school leaders and U.S. Congressman Elijah Cummings to come tour the buildings with him.

School Officials Visit

A few representatives from City Schools did show up. Michael Thomas, director of Career and Technology Education for City Schools, is now overseeing the co-location, Ferguson told The Brew in a follow-up conversation.

According to the Maritime Industries Academy web site, students who finish the CTE pathway “will be awarded CTE completer status, Transportation Workers Identification credentials and their Merchant Mariners credentials, all paid for by the school.”

The site says the school offers students the training and “opportunity to earn $45,000 per year right out of high school without a college degree as a Seaman Recruit in the maritime industry.”

Students from Maritime are moving from Sinclair Lane, several miles and multiple MTA bus rides away, to Cherry Hill. This fact did not sit well with some Maritime students and their parents, who protested the relocation earlier this year.

The reason for the relocation, according to a schools portfolio review, was to increase enrollment at New Era and give Maritime students a location near the water.

School Board Mum

School officials did not reply to The Brew’s initial emails regarding Ferguson’s assertions. An email to School Board President Marnelle Cooper was unreturned. School Commissioner Cheryl Casciani said she had “no comments” on Ferguson’s complaints.

Yesterday, Edie House-Foster, a spokeswoman for City Schools, said that 27 air conditioners have been installed in the New Era/Maritime buildings, the old carpet has been removed and replaced with tile, and the school is being painted and cleaned.

On Monday, furniture would be placed in the classroom, she said.

Ferguson told The Brew he will be visiting the school every week until it opens and is hopeful but still cautious.

He noted that he had recently spoken with a Maritime student who was upset about the move. “Kids are skeptical of the plan, [but] no one wants to see this school fail.”

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