Office of the
President

Leaders and Legends

Leaders and Legends

Remarks by President Ronald J. Daniels
Carey Business School
September 20, 2011
(As prepared)

[Introduction from Phil Phan, interim dean of the Carey Business School]

Thank you for that introduction, Phil, and of course for your leadership in this time of transition at Carey. I’m touched to see some of our deans, our faculty and students here today. Johns Hopkins is incredibly proud of this business school. It’s remarkable to think how much the school has accomplished in just four years. We look forward to building on that achievement in the years to come.

I appreciate that this speakers’ series has become a real attraction, drawing people from the local and regional business community, from our alumni network and beyond.

When thinking about the diversity of this group, I realized one important thing we share is this view.

Of course, I don’t mean literally this view. Most of us do not enjoy this stunning landscape outside of our office windows. Just so you know, the window near my desk looks out on a parking lot where they recently set up a couple of dumpsters and a staging area for a construction crew. Don’t let them tell you they save a university’s best real estate for the president.

The “view” I refer to, of course, is of Baltimore. Whether from our desks, our front porches or the windows of our car, each of us has a unique view on this city. And what I’d like to do today is talk about the view that Johns Hopkins has taken on its relationship with Baltimore.

I’ll illustrate this relationship by focusing on the East Baltimore Community School – or EBCS – a K through 8 charter school a few blocks north of our medical campus. Given the scope of this university’s investments in Baltimore, and the number of partnerships we’ve forged here, some of you may find it strange that I’m choosing to focus on a start-up public school serving fewer than 220 kids. But I think that it is helpful to invoke the story of this school to help concretize the ways in which Johns Hopkins has committed to, and will continue to commit to, the betterment of our community here in Baltimore.

***

A number of stories come to mind when mapping the relationship between Johns Hopkins and the community, but one recent one stands out.

There is a family that lives about a block away from the school. The parents have kids in two of the lower grades, and over the past two years, our teachers and administrators came to know them well. The kids were a little rowdy – a tough case. The father was incarcerated, and the mother was not very involved in their day-to-day lives for a while. The grandmother was the one who brought them to and from school, and turned up at in some of the parent-focused activities.

As one of the parents at the school put it: when you thought about who needed extra support, this was the first family that came to mind.

In the middle of last year, one of the kids became severely ill and required surgery. Quietly, the school rallied around the family.

Parents and students visited the boy, supported his siblings, and, eventually, eased his transition back to the classroom. In some ways, this wasn’t momentous – it’s how good communities operate – but it’s clear these small actions had a big effect.

You see, something happened shortly after that – his mother started showing up at school, asking what she could do to help. And when the father was released from prison, he started coming on school field trips. The kids started behaving better in class.

On the first day of school this year, the little boy’s sister cried for her mother almost all day. Before that, the teachers had never heard her ask for her mom, much less cry at her absence.

I share this story because it represents the power this school may one day wield across East Baltimore. We believe the school has the potential to change a child’s trajectory, a family’s trajectory and, indeed, the trajectory of an entire neighborhood.

***

Now, for those of you who are not familiar with East Baltimore, this was once a strong family neighborhood, where residents took great pride in the place where they lived.

People commuted daily to jobs at Bethlehem Steel, General Motors, or the shipyards – places, as it turns out, the changing global economy was already leaving behind.

Over time, the middle-class began its exodus. Between 1955 and 1965, most of the neighborhood’s white and middle-class African American families migrated to other parts of the city – or to the counties. This flight, combined with the ravaging effects of drugs and crime, took a significant toll on the community.

By 2004, the neighborhood’s crime and infant mortality rates were nearly double the City’s, and the median household income was about half that of Baltimore.

This was the condition of the neighborhood when then-Mayor Martin O’Malley announced an ambitious initiative to revitalize an 88-acre area just north of Hopkins’ hospital. In 2003, he created a nonprofit organization called East Baltimore Development Inc – or EBDI.

EBDI now manages a $1.8 billion project to restore and revitalize the community, in partnership with three levels of government, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Johns Hopkins, and many others.

When complete, this massive project will include affordable and market-rate housing, retail amenities like a grocery store and fitness center, lab buildings dedicated to start-up industries in the life sciences, and a large urban park.

As deeply involved as Hopkins is in all aspects of this undertaking, the East Baltimore Community School has special purchase on our energies. Let me explain why.

As many of you understand, steering a large organization entails not only helping to develop and concretize institutional priorities, but determining the order through which you can accomplish them. In an environment where human and financial resources are strained, choices such as these are unavoidable. And it was in this context that we elevated the rejuvenation of the school as a core priority for EBDI – as well as for the university.

We did so because the school stands as a poignant, vivid and galvanizing place for us to demonstrate our core belief in the community and its future. It builds on our passion for the transformative impact that education can have on the lives of our fellow citizenry.

***

EBCS first opened in 2009 in temporary trailers on North Wolfe Street, in the heart of the redevelopment footprint.

It gives priority to residents and former residents of the neighborhood, and to children of employees in the area. Not yet at capacity, it currently educates 219 students.

Most of these students will graduate from a different facility. In 2013, they’ll move into the first new school built in East Baltimore in a quarter century.

It will be a gleaming $30 million building on a 7-acre campus that will also include a $10 million early childhood center. Together, these facilities will eventually offer a connected continuum of care for children from birth through grade 8.

Both Johns Hopkins and Morgan State were involved in the start-up of EBCS, providing advice, support and training. But we are now taking on the day-to-day responsibilities of running a school. That includes everything from recruiting teachers and designing curricula to deciding the color of hallway bulletin boards.

Even our smallest decisions – such as what to hang in the hallways – are deeply rooted in the best, evidence-based research available.

***

Given the depth and breadth of the community’s problems and privations, it won’t surprise you to hear that we face significant challenges.

For example, the academic literature tells us that lower socio-economic status is associated with disparities in a child’s language abilities and long-term memory. We also know that children who are hungry or malnourished simply cannot learn as well as their peers.

Our efforts at the school must respond to this research. After all, this is a school where 85 percent of the students receive free or reduced-cost meals, in a neighborhood plagued by gripping poverty.

But as this school takes form and shape, we expect that it will increasingly serve a mixed-income community. This, too, is a deliberate choice, backed by more than EBDI’s vision for the neighborhood. We now know that children thrive in socio-economically diverse settings.

High-achieving students and those from higher-income families aren’t hindered when they learn cheek by jowl with kids from low income environments. In fact, they emerge with a better understanding of what diversity truly means. Meanwhile, children of lower socio-economic status make greater academic strides in diverse classrooms.

Let me discuss another aspect of our mandate. A full quarter of our current middle school students require special education or related services – well above the district average of close to 19 percent.

To meet the needs of all students at EBCS, we’re determined to focus holistically on each child’s behavioral, cognitive and physical health. This too is a lesson of contemporary research. Literature shows the co-morbidity of problems like hunger and behavior management is strong.

Simply put, we can design the most dynamic and engaging educational program in the world, but if the kids are too hungry to pay attention or can’t sit still long enough to listen, they can’t and won’t take advantage of the pedagogical experience.

And I am pleased that EBCS will use a rigorous and comprehensive education model called Success for All, which was designed by two faculty members from our School of Education – Robert Slavin and Nancy Madden. Currently in use in more than 1,500 schools in at least 46 states, this is one of the most extensively tested models of education in existence today. While it was developed right here in Baltimore, it hasn’t been used here in a decade, and we’re thrilled to be bringing this marquee program home again.

***

As you can imagine, meeting the holistic needs of a diverse group of students is going to command more than the formidable strength of our School of Education.

And so I am pleased that so many different parts of the university have come to rally around this project.

· Our schools of Medicine, Nursing and Public Health will offer services ranging from mental health counseling to support for the parent-teacher organization.

· The Peabody Conservatory will open a Preparatory branch at the school, accessible to the school community and beyond.

· Our Center for Talented Youth will test and develop advanced learning opportunities for high-achieving students.

· And our Athletics Department will host sports clinics and afterschool programs, and even bring our EBCS students to Homewood to watch our Blue Jays compete.

Perhaps as important as all these contributions is the strong, committed leadership of people like David Andrews, the dean of our School of Education; Annette Anderson, our assistant dean for the EBCS partnership; and Andy Frank, my special advisor for economic development. They share a passion for this project, and with their dedicated teams, have embraced the challenges and opportunities inherent in this school.

In short, Johns Hopkins is lending our best resources to ensure this school succeeds.

***

In his will, which created the Johns Hopkins Hospital, our founder made a specific provision for orphans and other hard-to-serve children. Historically, we’ve often thought about this stipulation in a health context.

But in fact, the work we’re doing in education in East Baltimore – and indeed elsewhere in the city – is in line with that tradition. It’s an extension of something we’ve always done. This spirit of enlightened citizenship is in our DNA.

But if that weren’t enough, there are two additional reasons this investment is important Johns Hopkins.

The first relates to our School of Education. As Dean David Andrews has observed: Can you imagine the Johns Hopkins medical enterprise without a hospital? Or could you imagine attracting the best surgeons in the world, only to watch them operate in other hospitals?

Just as our health professionals demonstrate best practices and landmark accomplishments at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, our School of Education is poised to demonstrate Johns Hopkins’ ability to advance student achievement at EBCS. As operator, we will manage teacher training, ensure best practices in our classrooms and hallways, and carefully track the progress of individual students.

We’ll not only be able to demonstrate what our students are capable of achieving, but we are determined that we will, in time, be able to hold it up as a showcase for others to see what’s possible when the right pieces come together.

The second critical reason for our investment is the expectation that the school will become the anchor for EBDI. A high-quality school has the power to exert a centripetal force on a community.

In East Baltimore, we hope that a high-functioning school will attract both families who had left the neighborhood, and those weighing the decision whether to move into it. Remember the Realtor’s adage: If parents don’t buy the school, they don’t buy the house.

But this is about much more than attracting families. We want to create a center point within East Baltimore. We are hoping that the whole neighborhood – not only our students – will access services at the school. When the new building is finished, we imagine opening the gymnasium and the auditorium to sports leagues and community theatre. We want to see residents come together, not only for parent events, but for community meetings, job counseling and other purposes.

Over time, we expect the centripetal pull of this school, and all it has to offer, will draw the nascent community together, helping to forge a new, shared sense of place.

And it’s not hard to imagine the radical effect a stable, safe and sought-after neighborhood could have on East Baltimore and the entire city.

***

I could offer countless other examples of the commitments Johns Hopkins has made to the health and well-being of our city.

Consider what’s happening just right here at Carey.

· Last year, as part of the Innovation for Humanity program, a group of our students helped create a strategic marketing plan to address the expansion goals of an urban farm providing produce to Baltimore resident with limited access to fresh food.

· Faculty and students have also been engaged with “Stocks in the Future,” a program that teaches financial literacy to middle school students in disadvantaged neighborhoods of Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

· And CareyServes is a student-formed club that engages students in volunteer activities. I’m thrilled that one of the next ones is the Johns Hopkins President’s Day of Service on Saturday!

Across Hopkins, the efforts of our students, faculty and staff add up in an unquantifiable way to stronger schools, brighter neighborhoods and more resilient communities.

***

Recently, I learned about a single mother who had two children at EBCS. The family moved, and her older child switched to another middle school. But her daughter is still a student with us. She had a great year in kindergarten last year, and is just starting first grade. Every day, this little girl and her mother ride two buses to get to school, and two buses to get home. It’s a daily sacrifice that I assume they make because they believe in what we’re doing, in where this school is going, and in how their participation in it can alter their life circumstances.

At Johns Hopkins, we have committed to this first grader, to the 218 students who attend the school with her this year, and to the hundreds and hundreds who will follow them in years to come. I look forward to sharing more stories of our students’ progress in the future.

Thank you. I’d like to stop here so I have time for your questions.