City schools soon to lose tough talker 'I just lost faith,' Principal Mosley says

November 16, 1991|By Sandy Banisky

Boyse F. Mosley, who became Baltimore's best-known principal with his blunt criticism of city schools, declared yesterday that "public education as we know it is dead" and said that he will retire in June from his job at Northwestern Senior High School.

"I just lost faith in the system," he said yesterday afternoon in his office, into which reporters and photographers trooped after the news of his retirement plans spread. "We can no longer fix the school system.

"I'm tired. I don't have the enthusiasm anymore."

Mr. Mosley's announcement came the morning after a meeting with Baltimore's school superintendent, Walter G. Amprey, who has been calling principals into his office to tell them they would be held accountable for lack of improvement at their schools.

"From my conversation with him, I think he wanted me out," Mr. Mosley said.

Dr. Amprey said he and Mr. Mosley discussed "leadership at the school. I had some concerns about the school, lack of progress." At the close of the meeting, which Dr. Amprey described as "friendly, amicable," Mr. Mosley said he would retire at the end of the school year.

Mr. Mosley, 58, came to work yesterday morning and revealed his retirement plans to the Northwestern faculty and student body with the flair that has been a hallmark of his 28-year career with the Baltimore schools: He announced the news without warning over the loudspeaker during morning announcements.

"I think I heard some cheers," Mr. Mosley said. "My colleagues don't care that much for me . . . They think I'm a loud-mouthed showoff."

In his years in public education, Mr. Mosley -- a dapper dresser with a clipped, compelling speaking style -- has shown a knack for grabbing headlines by making provocative statements about city schools.

He has always preached teaching the basics and enforcing old-fashioned standards of discipline -- but Northwestern was one of only two city high schools that flunked every category on the state's performance report cards released this week.

In 1985, Mr. Mosley proposed eliminating sports, shop and home economics and putting the money saved into remedial math and reading. Parents were outraged, and the idea died. In 1987, he proposed that parents sign a contract to make regular visits to school, an effort to keep them involved. That idea, too, went nowhere. In 1988, when fights began breaking out on buses, Mr. Mosley rode with the students to keep the peace. In 1989, he proposed a dress code for teachers. It was voted down.

"My staff is still angry with me," he said. "The system will reject any idea I have because it's mine. The staff will reject my ideas."

This week, he added, he was discouraged to see how badly Northwestern did on the state tests.

"When I looked at the report card, I realized we had made little or no progress," Mr. Mosley said. "I've been working at this for eight years. I just lost my enthusiasm.

"There's a lack of the will to learn on the part of youngsters. There's a lack of involvement on the part of the parents. There's a lack of quality education in the classroom.

"I'm tired of saying the same thing over and over again to the youngsters," Mr. Mosley went on. "I'm tired of their foul language and abuse. I'm tired of going onto buses and pulling them off when they cause trouble. I'm tired of driving through the neighborhood looking for them. I'm tired of going to Reisterstown Road Plaza and dragging them back to school.

"I spend more time keeping order than on educational pursuits."

Indeed, order broke down yesterday in one Northwestern classroom when a boy and girl began to fight and the boy ended up in Sinai Hospital, his arm slashed by a razor. In the hallways of Northwestern yesterday, some students said they would be glad to see Mr. Mosley go.

"We cheered," one girl said as she recalled hearing her principal's announcement.

"I'm happy he's going, because he's not fair," a 10th-grade boy said. "It's like being in the military."

"He told me I couldn't wear this," another 10th-grader said, tugging at his denim jacket. "And it's a set. It goes with these jeans."

But one student said he was saddened by Mr. Mosley's news. "He's a very nice, respectful, generous man," the boy said.

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