The transfer of All-Metro basketball center Norman Nolan from Milford Mill to Dunbar was within Baltimore City public school rules, but it has drawn the ire of the man in charge of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association.
"I've got to tell you that it's absolutely, categorically and undeniably wrong," said Ned Sparks, executive secretary of the MPSSAA. "What they did was within the letter of their [Baltimore City] rules, so it was legal, and we can't overturn it.
"But it's a slap in the face of the spirit of the rules. It counters all the principles of the standards of athletics, and it's got an awful lot of people around the state extremely unhappy."
Nolan, a 6-foot-7 junior who lives in Baltimore County, withdrew from Milford Mill on Sept. 14 and began taking classes at Dunbar the next day. His actions were in accordance with a rule that allows students who are non-residents to attend Baltimore City public schools.
Nolan led the Millers to the Class 1A state title last season. He is eligible to play basketball for Dunbar this season. The Poets were 29-0 and ranked No. 1 nationally under Pete Pompey, The Baltimore Sun's 1991-1992 Coach of the Year. This year, Dunbar and the rest of the city public schools joined the MPSSAA.
"It's no secret that [Dunbar coach Pete Pompey] courted him all year long," Sparks said. "To get into something like that is wrong for high school students. It insults anyone's intelligence to say that it's anything but an athletic transfer."
Pompey declined to answer Sparks' charges, but did say, "The integrity of the city public schools is not in question [because Nolan's transfer was within its guidelines]. I think the publicity that has been devoted to this young man's decision has been unfair."
Neither Nolan nor his parents have been available for comment, but Pompey said Nolan's parents "put him in a situation that was best for him academically."
Milford Mill coach Homer Seidel has declined to comment after saying, "I'm glad Pete's got him, and I wish him good luck."
Area school jurisdictions have different rules regarding transfers. MPSSAA rules say that transferring players are eligible to compete in athletics if they have "legally transferred," which means "a change of residence or transfer from one school by action approved by the local superintendent."
Charlotte Brown, the principal at Dunbar, referred all questions to the city school board's public relations office, which said that the student placement division processed Nolan's application, obtained his records for the transfer and admitted him to Dunbar.
"We did not bend the rules for him [Nolan]," said Brigitte Johnson, a spokeswoman in the school board's public relations office.
Johnson said that Nolan satisfied admissions requirements that allow non-city students to enroll in any city school, providing the student pays the school's tuition.
She said Nolan submitted an application to Gary Thrift, one of the city's six assistant superintendents. Thrift determined that Nolan met the criteria before sanctioning the transfer.
Nolan had to meet six entrance requirements, including those in math, English, attendance and reading. His percentage totals surpassed the minimum of 610 points.
He also pays the standard $1,500 a year that is charged by the six city-wide schools -- Dunbar, Poly, City, Western, Carver and Mervo -- which offer special curriculums. Lake Clifton, Southern, Northwestern, Northern, Patterson, Forest Park, Walbrook, Southwestern and Frederick Douglass are the zoned schools that charge non-city residents $1,200 tuition.
Sparks said the MPSSAA may soon appeal to the city school board to modify its guidelines. But he also said the MPSSAA has similar rules allowing non-county residents to transfer in, as long as tuition is paid.
Don Williams, city schools curriculum specialist for physical education and athletics, said the transfer process has existed for more than 20 years.
He said non-city residents have used it to enroll in health &L occupational programs such as those offered by Dunbar, humanities courses at City College and the liberal arts curriculum at Western. The Baltimore School for the Arts is also a city public school.
"These are the magnets, the drawing cards of the school,"
A different rule applies to students already living in the city.
"A city resident must be interested in those areas or desire to develop that type of career," Williams said. "Otherwise, you must go to the school that is zoned for your area."
Poly athletic director Mark Schlenoff is the vice president of the Maryland Scholastic Association.
"Whether it's Dunbar or Poly, you'll draw the kids who have a vested interest in that program," Schlenoff said. "Dunbar's the only place where you can get the health curriculum. If you happen to be an excellent basketball player, well I guess that's a plus."