Teachers upset about assignments take their anger out on school board 40 will move to new schools

June 25, 1993|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

Teachers who have been reassigned to new schools lashed out at Howard County education officials last night, accusing them of betrayal and blaming them for building distrust among school employees.

"I am devastated. I am disillusioned, in fact, shattered, and I feel completely betrayed by a system . . . to which I have devoted so much of my energy, my time and my heart," said Robin Norton, a teacher at Centennial High School.

"I find myself a pawn in a game, the rules of which are made up with no reason given as it is played by the chief players who are accountable to no one," said Ms. Norton, who like other teachers was notified of her transfer about 10 days before schools recessed for the summer.

"Can you not see how such inhumane treatment creates distrust and fear?" asked Gloriann Mehlman, another Centennial teacher who won't be returning there next year. "The county prides itself on its human relations policy. I wonder how a system that defines such a policy can fail to practice it."

Some 40 teachers will find themselves at new schools in September under Superintendent Michael E. Hickey's plan to shuffle employees to further staff and career development, and to meet school system needs.

School board members reacted with little comment to the criticism. But later in the meeting when Dr. Hickey read aloud a list of recently hired teachers, board member Deborah Kendig angrily answered critics.

Two years later, these teachers are going to get tenure, Ms. Kendig said, and they'll be the ones standing at the microphone criticizing the people who hired them.

"The tenure protects people. And in exchange for such protection, there ought to be civility," she said.

Ms. Kendig said that private-sector employees who spoke to their bosses in the same manner would be fired. "It isn't fair," she said.

After the meeting, Dr. Hickey said the county teachers union is "clearly determined" to spread negative connotations about the transfers.

"When emotions cool over this, I'm going to try to address this issue with the staff and put forth some clearer rationale" about the moves, he said.

In other business:

* The board voted 4-0 -- one member was absent -- to pass a smoking ban that would prohibit teachers and visitors from PTC selling tobacco products or lighting up on school property at any time.

While three board members said they would like to see an exception to allow actors to use cigarettes as props in plays and other productions, Vice Chairwoman Susan Cook opposed it. "I simply don't like the idea of exceptions," she said.

Board members were also concerned that administrators would have to patrol school grounds to catch visitors who sneak a smoke during a sporting event or other events. Board Chairman Dana F. Hanna said if school officials had to "beat some citizenry into submission, I'd be disappointed."

But Dr. Hickey said: "We expect people to be responsible and responsive . . . and put it out."

* Dr. Hickey appointed Michael Goins as principal of Owen Brown Middle School. Mr. Goins had been acting principal since spring when he replaced Walter Caldwell, who died after a heart attack.

* The board approved the name "Manor Woods" for an elementary school scheduled to open in 1994 in Ellicott City. Board members said they wanted to see more student involvement in picking names for future schools. Mr. Hanna said such involvement would give students a chance to do historical research projects as class assignments.

Associate Superintendent James McGowan said a plan to involve more students is in the works.

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