School Board Takes Its Time ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

August 03, 1993

Anne Arundel school board members say they need more time to decide if Superintendent C. Berry Carter should keep his job. But unless they act promptly and decisively regarding Mr. Carter and others whose apparent negligence led to the Ronald Price sex scandal, they could appear to care more about protecting their employees than school children.

After a state investigation, released last week, showed that Mr. Carter knew in 1987 that Mr. Price was suspected of having sex with several of his Northeast High students, the board placed the superintendent on paid administrative leave. Board members have asked for their own investigation into Mr. Carter's role; they say the superintendent deserves due process because he has served the county 38 years and he 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 it should not take four more months for him to do that. Board members -- who met with Mr. Carter for seven hours on Saturday -- also do not need that much time to deliberate this matter. They should know soon enough the answer to the key question: Can Mr. Carter continue to lead the county school system?

Further delays will only exacerbate the distrust and doubts parents already feel toward the school administration. Most Anne Arundel parents and students care little about the inside politics of the case; whether the superintendent is C. Berry Carter or someone else doesn't matter as long as the classrooms are run smoothly and their children are safe.

The decisions facing the school board go to the heart of children's well-being. 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 satisfy the board and the public that, contrary to the state report, he did not. He must explain how an investigation of Mr. Price's alleged misconduct fell through the cracks in 1987, while he was deputy superintendent.

Otherwise, the board has no choice; it must fire him. Mr. Carter has long been a big part of this 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.

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