Mount Hebron parents group to appeal transfers Committee questions timing of moves

July 27, 1993|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

Mount Hebron parents who failed at the local level to reverse the transfer of three high school administrators will try again -- this time at the state Department of Education.

The Mount Hebron High School Committee for Educational Excellence is expected today to file an appeal with the state.

The parents group wants the state to investigate Howard County School Superintendent Michael E. Hickey's administrative transfer process, which included moving Mount Hebron's top three administrators.

"It's never been done before, and we question if it was the best thing to do," Marty Bode, head of the parents group, said of the transfers.

The group had until Friday -- 30 days after the county school board denied their request for an appeal -- to take their case to the state board.

In denying the parents' appeal, the county school board said the parents had no legal standing.

Dana Hanna, school board chairman, had written in a July 2 letter: "Although the Board recognizes that the Committee has a sincere interest in the well-being of Mt. Hebron High School, the Committee lacks a personal stake in the administrative action being challenged, particularly when the three Mt. Hebron High School administrators themselves have not appealed the transfer action of the Superintendent."

Parents are upset at the lack of community input and the timing of the moves -- near the end of the school year, a week before their children were to take high school finals.

"The community is outraged at what happened," Ms. Bode said. "While that has tapered off, we are not less determined to try to do anything about it."

The parents charge that the timing of the moves, along with Dr. Hickey's "allegedly improper conduct," deprived them of their right to make a "meaningful appeal," according to their appeal. They also dispute the county school board's finding that they don't have legal standing to file a complaint.

"It's an interpretation of law," said Ms. Bode. "We don't see language within the law that we cannot appeal."

Mr. Hanna referred the question of legal standing to Valerie Cloutier, a lawyer with the Office of the Attorney General Educational Affairs Division. Ms. Cloutier said yesterday she was unable to answer questions until she saw the appeal.

Parents say they are still unclear as to why Principal Edgar Markley and assistant principals Joan Lane and Stephen Wallis were transferred.

"The only two things we heard before when we asked the question [was that] it was for the good of the system and for career development," Ms. Bode said. "We want to know what is for the good of the system."

Since Dr. Hickey transferred more than 60 administrators and teachers early last month, two assistant principals and one teacher, Robin Norton, have quit. The former Centennial High School English teacher publicly announced her resignation at last week's school board meeting and said in a scathing speech that the school system had a "fundamental disrespect" for school employees.

Parents in the Mount Hebron group say they won't quit if their appeal at the state level fails. They've discussed filing for a court injunction to stay the decision, and they've raised more than $600 to pay legal costs.

They've also rented an Ellicott City post office box to correspond among parents, and a handful of them met with Republican state Sen. Christopher McCabe last week to discuss introducing legislation to curb the powers of school superintendents.

Meanwhile, Mr. Hanna said he is sure Mount Hebron High won't be adversely affected by the transfers. The school "has a very experienced staff and enthusiastic parents, as witnessed by the controversy created by these issues," he said.

"The administrative team coming on board has many years of service behind them that they will bring to the task," Mr. Hanna said. "Things will not be changed radically in any fashion, contrary to some of the assertions."

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