Carducci Sets The Wrong Example For His Students


Actions Read Like Soap Opera Not High School

September 01, 1991|By Chris Kaltenbach

It's hard to imagine a situation handled worse -- on almost everyone's part -- than the mess at Northeast High.

No one -- not Principal Joseph Carducci Jr., not School Superintendent Larry L. Lorton, notthe Board of Education, not the parents -- is coming out of this onesmelling like a rose, or anything else terribly pleasant.

Thankfully, some giant steps toward peace and sanity were taken Friday. School secretary Virginia Zimmerman, who had the temerity to have a husband who questioned Carducci's leadership, was given her jobback. Former Athletic Director Bob Grimm, whose firing started this brouhaha in the first place, was offered his job back as well.(He didn't accept, which was probably a smart move given the incendiary atmosphere at Northeast). And the faculty said they were willing to let the matter drop for now and allow things to settle down.

Not that everything is sweetness and light. A sizable group of parents still are screaming for Carducci's head, claiming his religious beliefs and dictatorial approach make him ill-suited to run their school. (Perhapsthey could take a cue from the faculty?) And it remains to be seen whether the object of their wrath will continue his ham-handed approach to running the school.

Carducci may be a fine educator with lotsof experience and a ton of good ideas. He obviously is a man of strong convictions.

He's sure gotten off on one hell of a wrong foot at Northeast, however.

His firing of Grimm certainly was within hispurview and may even have been justified -- although that's hardly even the point anymore. But it would be hard to justify his reported insistence that any girl at Northeast considering an abortion be referred to him for counseling. And his behavior during the past several weeks is nearly indefensible, not to mention inexplicable.

Principal Carducci believes abortion is wrong. That's his right. He wants people to know his beliefs. That's his right, too. But when he demands that people hear his beliefs whether they want to or not, that's wrong.

He has no right to insist that any girl considering an abortion talk to him. Were he, instead, to let his views be known and encourage young women to see him, I suspect few voices would be raised in protest.

Even more disturbing, however, is the way Carducci seems to deal with dissent. When students staged a June sit-in protesting Grimm's dismissal, he threatened them, saying they would be suspended andexcluded from graduation ceremonies unless they went to class. Last week, he met one boy whose parents are among those demanding his removal and, according to the student, spoke ominously of how he was looking forward to school opening on Tuesday.

Parents are justifiably concerned. They have a right to expect better of their principal.

Those parents demanding Carducci's removal, however, go too far when they say his beliefs make him unfit to to a principal. His beliefs should have nothing to do with it; it's his actions to which people should be objecting.

With almost 1,000 students, Northeast should be large enough to encompass a wide range of beliefs, on abortion as well as any other issue. McCarthyism was all about beliefs and penalizing those who had the wrong ones. What was wrong in 1951 is just as wrong 40 years later.

The school board, too, earns its share of blamefor the debacle. When a group of parents showed up at a board meeting to complain about Carducci, they weren't allowed to read a preparedstatement until all references to him by name had been deleted. The board knew these parents were coming. How come nobody told them beforehand they couldn't use Carducci's name?

And why turn down -- on atechnicality, saying it arrived two days late -- the parents' appealof Lorton's decision supporting Carducci? Maybe if the board had at least offered those parents an attentive ear, much of this conflagration could have been avoided.

As for Lorton: What on earth possessed him to approve Zimmerman's transfer, when it was proposed solely aspunishment for what her husband had said the previous day? Is this the sort of spiteful behavior we want to encourage in our children?

The superintendent also earns a jeer for his remark a few weeks ago that parents were losing sight of what was best for their children --a suggestion that parents were doing this for some reason other thanconcern for their sons' and daughters' welfare.

Say what you willabout the parents and their single-minded zeal in calling for Carducci's scalp, but obviously they were doing it because they felt it wasbest for their children. They may have been wrong or they may have gone too far, but they didn't do all this for want of something betterto occupy their time. They wanted what is best for their children. For Lorton to suggest otherwise was an insult.

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