Delays and distrust

August 03, 1993

Anne Arundel County school board members had best be careful. They 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 negligence led to the Ronald Price sex scandal, they could appear to care more about protecting their employees than schoolchildren.

Despite a detailed state investigation, released last week, that shows Mr. Carter knew in 1987 that Mr. Price was suspected of having sex with several of his Northeast High students, the board has placed him on paid administrative leave.

Board members have asked for another investigation to look more closely at Mr. Carter's role; they say the superintendent deserves due process because he has served the county 38 years and insists that he had no "direct knowledge" of Mr. Price's behavior. This new report is not due until Nov. 30.

Certainly 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 -- do not need that much time to decide whether he has been telling the truth. They should know soon enough whether Mr. Carter can continue leading this school system.

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

They care now because the decisions facing the school board go to the heart of children's safety and well-being.

The issue is not, as some board members seem to think, Mr. Carter's many years of loyal service to Anne Arundel County schools. The issue is whether he knowingly compromised students' welfare and whether he could do it again.

Mr. Carter must satisfy the board and the public that, contrary to the state report, he did not compromise that duty. He must explain how an investigation of Mr. Price's alleged misconduct fell through the cracks in 1987, while he was deputy superindendent.

Otherwise, the board has no choice; it must fire him.

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