Elementary schools' parents protest transfers with letter-writing campaign But officials say changes will stand

June 18, 1993|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

Parents at two county schools are launching a letter-writing campaign to try to reverse a decision that transfers a principal and a teacher to other schools.

The efforts follow angry reactions last week to school officials' announcement of a plan to reassign more than 60 teachers and administrators. Tempers flared at a school board meeting last Thursday as parents objected to the moves, and students staged a walkout at Mount Hebron High School, which will lose its top three administrators through reassignment.

School officials say the transfers will stand.

Nevertheless, Jeffers Hill Elementary School parents planned to set up a table in front of the school this morning to gather signatures to keep its principal, Fredericka Hill, from being transferred. Mrs. Hill has been at the school 15 years and is planning to retire in two years. She is being reassigned to Swansfield Elementary School, whose principal is taking her place at Jeffers Hill.

"A policy that throws a community into grief [is not being] handled right," said John Buck, president of Jeffers Hill PTA. "There's real tears over this one."

Parents say their children were grieving over the death of Jeffers Hill's health assistant -- who died unexpectedly of a stroke about three weeks ago -- when the transfer announcement was made. They are concerned that the instability at Jeffers Hill will have a negative effect on their children's education and well-being.

"We don't feel the transfer is best for anyone involved," said Gail Pendergrast, a parent. "We're saying that doesn't make any sense."

Their efforts may be for naught, according to school spokeswoman Patti Caplan.

"A lot of thought went into [the transfers] before the decisions were made," she said. "It's kind of a domino thing. Once you move one person, you have to move another."

Parents throughout the county are calling for a change in the way Howard County school officials transfer employees. Close to 40 teachers and 25 principals and assistant principals in elementary, middle and high schools are being reassigned next school year under Superintendent Michael E. Hickey's latest shuffling of employees.

In response to public concern, Dr. Hickey said he would set up an advisory committee to address transfers next school year.

Jeffers Hill students are also taking up the cause and addressing letters to Dr. Hickey as well as to the school board.

They've written goodbye and good luck to Mrs. Hill. One student wrote to her: "I will miss you a lot. I wish you could stay. I would walk by and wave and you waved and smiled."

At Longfellow Elementary School, parents are protesting the transfer of a second-grade teacher, Rayzella Berko, known as "Rayzee." A petition had been circulating this week to keep her at the school.

"Dr. Hickey is looking at the school system, but is he looking at the children?" asks Bonnie Hudak, Longfellow PTA vice president. "That's our primary responsibility."

Parents and students at Dunloggin Middle School have given up fighting to keep their assistant principal, C. Anthony Yount, from being moved to Clemens Crossing Elementary School. But parents there are also calling for a change in the way school officials handle transfers. They say school officials are looking out for the needs of the school system at the expense of the children.

"We don't think our children are being served in this process," said Kathleen Maizel, a parent of an eighth-grader.

"Where is the stability?" she asked. "Where is the humanity? vTC Where is the self-esteem these children are supposed to build when every year there's a flux?"

Dunloggin has undergone three changes in administrators and 17 transfers of teachers over the past three years. Hundreds of students left the school when Burleigh Manor Middle School opened this school year.

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