Shanee Richardson, a teacher’s aide, and Eunice Davage-Jones, a guidance counselor, principal and teacher, have set out on a mission to get Baltimore’s youth back in school. They knocked on hundreds of doors with little response, but the two women were not discouraged.
A citywide campaign that will last for five weeks this summer, Davage-Jones and Richardson knocked on over 500 doors within eight days to encourage parents to re-enroll their children.
Some of the parents and grandparents who came to the door said their children were already enrolled in public schools. However, most of the parents were away from the home, when Richardson and Davage-Jones visited.
The two women are being paid $3,000, but they say it isn’t about the paycheck.
“The streets are calling our kids,” said Davage-Jones, as she recalled the memory of a high school student being gunned down in 2016. “I’m anxious to get one back.”
The women were wearing T-shirts with the phrase, “Bringing Baltimore back one child at a time.”
Forty Baltimore Teachers Union members have been deployed across the city to drive up public school enrollment. In 2016, an estimated 1,000 students either transferred to another school district or dropped out of school. Per pupil spending for Maryland is $11,100, which is lost when the student leaves. Those losses contributed to the first teacher layoffs in nearly 10 years and a $130 million budget shortfall.
Davage-Jones has worked in the education sector for 16 years. She was employed as a guidance counselor at the Benjamin Banneker Eubie Blake Academy for Arts & Sciences until she received her pink slip last month. Davage-Jones is among the 115 people who received pink slips, including assistant principals, 13 classroom teachers and librarians.
“There’s no time for bitterness. I’m hurt the district let me go, but for these kids it’s their lives.” Davage-Jones said. “We have kids who come one day and you never seen them again. You bang on doors. You go looking for them. Every now and then you see them on the corner and that’s scary.”
All of the organizers combined have knocked on nearly 6,000 doors in two weeks, but only spoken to about 1,070 people. Davage-Jones said someone answers the door only 30 percent of the time.
Radio commercials are being combined with the recruiting effort to drive up enrollment. In 1969, 193,000 students attended Baltimore public schools. Today, those numbers have dropped to about 83,350 students.
The school district, city and the American Federation of Teachers are sponsoring the $200,000 recruitment campaign. The organizers are hoping to encourage 1,000 parents, grandparents and guardians to re-enroll their children in school.