Oakland Mills Principal Succeeds Beyond Expectations

Retiring Tablerwas Firm But Fair

March 27, 1991|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff writer

"Everything she does, she does well, and she does everything," said the caption under Sue Ann Allport's photo in the 1959 Sykesville HighSchool yearbook.

By all accounts, Sue Ann Allport Tabler, who will retire in June as Oakland Mills High School principal, has been fulfilling that promise ever since.

She has been a teacher, assistant principal and high school principal. She is a director of the Maryland chapter of the American Lung Association, president of the Maryland Association of Secondary School Principals and a member of the Middle States Commission, which oversees school accreditations.

Tabler is "a very bright, very capablelady," says Lee Noel, principal of Glenelg and later Oakland Mills high schools when Tabler was assistant principal.

"She has excellent rapport with people and she was always willing to get in and do thejob. She never wanted to hear that there was a difference between men and women (on the job) and that women couldn't do some of the things the job required."

Noel says he hoped Tabler would succeed him when he retired as principal of Oakland Mills in 1986. She won the jobafter a nationwide search, and became the first of four women named to head county high schools in the 1980s.

School board member Susan J. Cook, a member of the Oakland Mills PTSA executive council when Tabler became principal in 1986, says the first impression of the newprincipal was deceptive.

"She's tiny and soft-spoken, and people said, 'How can she handle the students?' because we had some big students," Cook recalls.

"But it didn't take the students long to findout she was the boss and they respected that."

Cook says Oakland Mills was having some problems with students fighting at the time. Tabler proved to be firm but fair, doling out punishment while seeking to solve underlying problems.

But the best tribute to Tabler's success came from the freshman who approached her in the hall last week and asked, "Couldn't you stay for four more years?"

She could. At 50, Tabler has the energy and the sense of humor under pressure demanded of modern high school principals, although she has traded in her'82 Corvette for a more sedate Oldsmobile Toronado.

Tabler says one factor in her decision to retire was Superintendent Michael E. Hickey's practice of rotating principals every four or five years.

"Istarted as a Scorpion," the Oakland Mills principal told faculty members last week, "and I just don't want to be an Eagle or a Gladiator or anything else."

Tabler says she is looking into education-related opportunities fora second career. Her husband, Robert L. Tabler, plans to continue his career in real estate sales in Carroll County.

When she began teaching sixth grade at Lisbon Elementary School 30 years ago, Tabler never dreamed she would become a high school principal. Though she had been a bright, active Sykesville High student -- yearbook staff, girls' octet, state chorus, president of the honor society -- in those days, women didn't dream of becoming high school administrators.

Retired Sykesville High principal Evan F. Bowers andhis wife Molly, a reading teacher there, remember Tabler as a leaderin school and in youth organizations at her church, St. Paul's United Methodist in Sykesville.

"There was nothing trivial about her," Molly Bowers says. "She never got into mischief or played hooky."

In the fall after graduation, Tabler enrolled at Western Maryland College, having known at least since first grade that she was going to be a teacher. She planned to teach math, but switched to English aftershe discovered she had no affinity for calculus.

While she was incollege, Robert L. Tabler, who used to deliver groceries to the Allport family, returned from military service and showed up on campus.

"I think he wanted me to introduce him to some of the other women students, but that didn't happen," Tabler says with a smile. They married in 1961.

She quit college to begin teaching in 1961, taught for one year, returned to WMC and graduated in 1964. She taught readingat Lisbon, then high school English and was department chair at Mount Hebron when an administrative assistant left and Principal James McCrumb asked her to substitute.

"And I was absolutely bitten with the thought of being an administrative assistant," Tabler recalls. Shewon the job with the understanding that the one thing former assistant Robert Bastress had done that she couldn't do was coach the Vikingfootball team.

In 1976, she became Noel's assistant principal at Glenelg, and four years later went to the Maryland State Department of Education as an administrator in a curriculum office and later as executive director of the Maryland Association of Student Councils.

Her first National Association of Student Councils convention was inReno, Nev. "I thought, this is a tough assignment," she says.

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