The message from approximately 80 parents gathered outside NortheastHigh School was loud and clear: They've had enough of Principal Joseph Carducci Jr., and they will not back down from their demands for his removal.
Against the advice of county School Superintendent Larry L. Lorton, two Board of Education members and Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, D-Brooklyn Park, the group went ahead with a "peaceful informativerally" in front of the high school during orientation exercises for new students and their parents.
"Dr. Lorton has told us it's the ninth inning and it's over; we're saying this is extra innings and we will not be intimidated," said Paul Zimmerman, former president of the Northeast athletic boosters.
Zimmerman was the chairman of an organizational meeting for the rally Monday night. In Tuesday's Anne Arundel County Sun, he accused the school board of using intimidation tactics to stop the protests.
Yesterday, Zimmerman's wife, Virginia, school secretary at Northeastfor 11 years, was told she was being transferred against her will toBroadneck High School effective today.
Virginia Zimmerman was honored by the school board as the Anne Arundel County school system's "Employee of the Month" in January. Carducci was named principal at Northeast the following month.
Paul Zimmerman said his wife was not told why she was being transferred.
"This is blatant retaliation for her husband voicing his concerns about the principal, and it doesn't sit right with me because I think it's a violation of Paul's rightto speak up as an American," said Duke Vickery, a spokesman for the Northeast Community Family Group, an ad hoc organization calling for Carducci's removal.
Bob Grimm, a social studies teacher whose removal as athletic director set off the first wave of student and teacher protest in the spring, was transferred to Meade High School on Monday. Grimm had been at Northeast for 24 years.
News of Grimm's and especially Zimmerman's transfers stunned the faculty at Northeast. Harry Lentz, the school's baseball coach and a history teacher there for 27 years, demanded an explanation for why Carducci is "purging" theNortheast faculty.
"I don't see how this can possibly be in the best interests of the students," he said. "How can you go from employee of the month in January to being transferred the day after your husband spoke up at a meeting? I teach U.S. history. How am I going to teach the U.S. Constitution and freedom of speech with this sort of thing going on in the school?"
Lentz said he expects Carducci or theschool administration will strike back at him for questioning the transfers. But, he said, his principles and loyalties would not allow him to remain silent.
Faculty morale at Northeast ranges from "verylow to open hostility" against Carducci, he said.
"Every teacher in this county should take heed of what is happening at Northeast to people who try to speak their minds," said Doris Fronckoski, a schoolboard employee. At last night's rally, she carried a sign asking, "Are Fear and Intimidation Tools of a Good Principal?"
Fronckoski, whose daughter graduated from Northeast last year, said she has been appalled by reports from Northeast faculty members about a verbal policy Carducci had instituted regarding pregnant students, but was afraid to speak out -- until she heard of Zimmerman's transfer.
"I had to slap myself today and wonder what country I'm in," she said. "I don't think a child's constitutional rights should change when they come onto school property, and I don't think people should be punished for saying that -- or when their husband says that."
Several teachers and guidance counselors at Northeast have said Carducci told them to send any pregnant girl considering an abortion to him, so he couldcounsel her against the procedure.
There were no incidents or confrontations during last night's rally, as parents, students and boosters spread across a two-block stretch of Duvall Highway, across the street from school grounds.Some parents arriving with their ninth graders honked their car horns in solidarity with the protesters, while others simply drove by.
Carducci was expected to attend the orientation but the protesters did not see him.