Anne Arundel County parents probably watched with detached interest as their neighbors to the north, in Baltimore County, got tied in knots over the personality and policy issues regarding that county's new superintendent, Stuart Berger. But now it is Anne Arundel's turn to fret, and the need for a resolution is even more immediate.
A state investigation, released last week, shows that Anne Arundel Superintendent C. Berry Carter knew in 1987 that Northeast High School teacher Ronald Price was suspected of having sex with several of his students. The county school board responded last Saturday by placing Mr. Carter on paid administrative leave. It has asked for its own investigation to look more closely at Mr. Carter's role, saying he deserves due process because he has served the county 38 years and maintains that he had no "direct knowledge" of Mr. Price's behavior. This new report is not due until Nov. 30.
Mr. Carter has the right to a fair hearing and to tell his side of the story. But unless the board acts promptly and decisively regarding him and others whose negligence led to the Price scandal, they could appear to care more about protecting their employees than school children.
State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick admirably confronted this issue head-on and had an investigative report in hand within weeks. It should not take the local school board four months to do the same. Board members -- who met with Mr. Carter for seven hours on Saturday -- do not need until after Thanksgiving to decide whether the state investigators were correct or whether the superintendent has been telling the truth. They should know the answer to the most important question soon enough: Can Mr. Carter continue leading their school system?
Further delays will only exacerbate the distrust parents already feel. The issue is not, as some board members seem to think, Mr. Carter's length of loyal service. The issue is whether he knowingly compromised students' welfare. Mr. Carter must explain how an investigation of Mr. Price's alleged misconduct fell through the cracks in 1987, while he was deputy superintendent. He must reassure the public that he did not lie this spring when he said he had no knowledge of Mr. Price's behavior.
Otherwise, the board has no choice; it must fire him. Mr. Carter has long been a big part of Arundel's school system, but he is not bigger than the system. With school to begin in a month, the board can't take four months to act.