Officials at Severna Park High School and Anne Arundel Community College struggled yesterday to make sense of charges against a veteran English teacher police say offered to raise a student's grade in exchange for the name of a drug supplier.
Anthony Edward Mongello, who teaches at both schools, was charged Wednesday with intent to distribute marijuana. He was released on personal recognizance.
Mongello, 38, of the first block of Silverwood Circle, was arrested Wednesday after investigators said they bought 1 pounds of marijuana from him following a two-week investigation by county narcotics detectives.
"I'm surprised to say the least," Severna Park principal Oliver Wittig said yesterday. "I haven't talked to him. He called into the answering service and said he would be out for two days. I do plan to go public and say something to the staff and students when I know a little more than just rumors."
Wittig said there had never been any problem with Mongello's work, and described the 16-year veteran as a "popular" teacher.
"We're just trying to deal with the information as we get it and to make sure students know about it with as much factual information as possible," AACC spokesman Theone Relos said. "He has been in good standing, and there had never been any incidents such as this. He's been a good employee."
County police said their investigation began when a student at AACC notified Crofton police that Mongello, a part-time freshman English professor at the college, offered to trade a B in his class for the name of a large-quantity supplier of marijuana.
Lt. Gary Lyle said Mongello reportedly first approached the student last summer, asking him where he could get some marijuana. The student said he didn't know.
Later, police said the 21-year-old student, who was earning an incomplete in Mongello's class, asked how he could improve the grade.
Police say the teacher replied the student would earn a B if he found the teacher a high-level marijuana source.
Sgt. Deborah French of the Crofton police notified county police.
Wednesday evening, a detective posing as a dealer met Mongello in the parking lot of an Arnold business. Police refused to name the business.
Investigators claim Mongello bought 1 pounds of marijuana for $1,500. He was arrested by officers as he left the parking lot.
Mongello told the undercover detective the student would receive a B in his class, police said. They added there was no evidence Mongello was selling the drugs to students or distributing it on school grounds.
Mongello teaches 10th- , 11th- and 12th-grade creative writing and yearbook courses at Severna Park, where he has spent all but one of his 16 years as a teacher. For the past five years, he has taught on Monday and Wednesday nights at the college. His classes there will be taken over by another professor in the English department.
Deputy School Superintendent C. Berry Carter was called by police late Wednesday night and told of the arrest. While declining to discuss specifics of Mongello's case, Carter said teachers in similar situations would either be suspended or asked to resign.
"In a situation like this, under a felony drug charge, a teacher would not be permitted to return to the classroom," Carter said. "We would ask the principal to have him sent home or to central office."
Carter said the school board would have to determine Mongello's status with the school system, regardless of the outcome in court.
"We are administrative, not a court of law," Carter said. "Whether he was found guilty or not, we would have to review the facts in regards to his fitness to teach."
Officials at the community college said Mongello has been placed on administrative leave with pay. "We haven't started to address the issue of what would happen if he is found guilty," Relos said. "We will consider that over the next few days."
But Carter admits his disappointment in having to answer questions about a second county teacher arrested on drug charges.
Mongello's arrest comes just one month before the scheduled start of court proceedings against Thomas Russell Rubins, 46, a 25-year veteran Magothy Middle School teacher charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Police seized drugs and other evidence from his Annapolis home in May.
Rubins is suspected of working for 23-year-old James Todd Hibler, a convicted drug dealer believed to have run a million-dollar drug network from his family's Crofton home. Rubins, 46, was suspended without pay. His Circuit Court trial is scheduled for Nov. 19.
"It's unusual," Carter said. "I can't think of any other arrests of teachers; not for drugs."