Lorton Tries To Calm Troubled Waters At Northeast High

Parents Mollified, But Remain Concerned

September 01, 1991|By Robert Lee | Robert Lee,Staff writer

County School Superintendent Larry L. Lorton offered last week to return a popular athletic director and school secretary to their jobs at Northeast High -- a move that appears to have quelled faculty unrest at the troubled Pasadena school.

Lorton agreed to withdraw the transfers of former social studies teacher and athletic director Bob Grimm and school secretary Virginia Zimmerman after a meeting with theNortheast faculty members Wednesday.

Grimm, however, declined the offer to return to the school where he had taught for 24 years.

"It's not that I don't want to be at Northeast. It's just, for now it's in the best interest of me and my family to be in an atmosphere without friction and without tension," Grimm said. "And that's in no way meant as a criticism of the teachersthere or the people in the Northeast community, they aren't the problem. It has been a great place to work until recently."

Lorton hadtransferred Grimm to Meade High School Monday. His dismissal as Northeast's athletic director last spring unleashed a series of protests and allegations that Northeast Principal Joseph Carducci Jr. has allowed his religious views to interfere with the administration of a wide array of programs at the school.

Grimm's reinstatement as the athletic director has been demanded by the Northeast Community Family Group, an organization of parents and community activists that has staged frequent protests.

Zimmerman, who was back at work at Northeast Friday, had been transferred to Broadneck High School Wednesday, two days after her husband, Paul, chaired a meeting of the Northeast Community Family Group. He was quoted in this newspaper, accusing Lorton and Carducci of using intimidation tactics to silence the group's protests.

Grimm's and Zimmerman's transfers infuriated the faculty members at Northeast, prompting history teacher Harry Lentz to ask, "How am I going to teach the U.S. Constitution and freedom of speech with this sort of thing going on in the school?"

But Friday, Bart Rader, an English teacher who was authorized to speak for the Northeast faculty, said, "The controversy at Northeast is over.

"Everyone's comfortable now that Ginny is back and Grimm was allowed to make his own decision. Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Lorton, we're confidant that everything is going to get back to normal and we'll have the best possible year we can have," Rader said.

But Lorton has merely "cured a symptom" of the problems at Northeast, said Linda Grunder, a spokeswoman for the Northeast Community Family Group.

"It's progress, and it's wonderful that the faculty is happy and ready to teach. The controversy with Bob Grimm is now over, but the controversy with the principal is not. We're still concerned about the abortion policy,censorship, and creationism being encouraged as a science at the school. As far as the Northeast Community Family Group is concerned, we'd like to have a meeting with the school board to air our concerns," Grunder said.

County school board member Maureen Carr-York, who has tried to reassure skeptical parents that the board and Lorton are investigating their concerns, said "if there are further concerns theywill be addressed one step at a time."

A new issue, Grunder said,is Carducci's treatment of students associated with protests againsthim.

Richard Davis, a Northeast senior who attended a protest rally Wednesday, said that after the rally disbanded he went into the school to talk to some former teachers.

"After I talked to them I walked down the hall and Dr. Carducci was standing there, and I guess he heard me talking because he asked if I had been protesting. When I said 'yes,' he said that he doesn't think what I was doing is right."

Then I told him what we are doing is right and what he is doing to the school is wrong.

"Then he asked if I still go to school here, and when I said I was in 12th grade he said -- direct quote -- 'I can't wait to see you the first day of school.' The way he said it waslike he was going to do something to me like suspend me, not like hemissed me and just wanted me to come back."

Davis said he had joined the protests because last spring he had repeatedly tried and failed to get Carducci to do something about smoking in the bathrooms at Northeast, which he said aggravates his asthma. Davis said the principal has brushed off several attempts to speak to him in the halls andignored "two or three" messages left with his secretary.

"He has a communication problem," Davis said.

Carducci has not returned repeated phone calls and was not available for comment Friday.

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