Lentz faces reassignment

August 25, 1993|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Staff Writer

This should have been a typical morning for Harry Lentz, with county teachers reporting to school today to prepare for the fall semester.

But little that has happened to Lentz this summer has been typical.

A social studies teacher at Northeast for 28 years, and the school's baseball coach since 1966, Lentz is expected to be reassigned today after allegations by a former Northeast teacher that he sexually harassed her.

Marlene Ramey, who taught social studies at Northeast, told school system authorities this spring that Lentz and athletic director Roger Stitt had sexually harassed her in the late 1980s. She never formally complained to administrators, but she obtained a midyear transfer at the time to South River, then went to Southern. She is now at Annapolis.

Lentz, 49, and Stitt, 44, have been on paid administrative leave. They have denied the charges.

Yesterday, boys basketball coach John Barbour was named as acting athletic director "for an indeterminable period of time, to keep the program going," said principal Joseph Carducci. Carducci added that nothing would be done with the baseball position until Lentz's status is determined by the board. He didn't rule out the possibility of Lentz returning as coach.

"A couple of parents called me and said they heard I was going to be reassigned to the board. But no one from there has told me that," Lentz said.

"I can't believe this is happening after 28 years. I don't have anything in my academic or athletic file, on coaching or teaching -- and I want to emphasis teaching first, because that's what I am -- that's negative. I'm stunned and shattered by it. I thought professionally I've always gotten along with most people."

Lentz first heard of the complaint on June 16, when he met with Carducci and was handed a letter containing the allegations.

"The next morning, I was called to the Board of Education, where the actual words in the complaint were read to me [by assistant superintendent Bill Scott]. They weren't given to me in writing. I was shocked by it," he said.

Lentz has filed a grievance with the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, and he expects to have a hearing before the board.

"The fact is, school is going to be starting and this isn't going to be resolved. And I don't know if I'll ever get back into the classroom, or back on third base," he said.

He also has considered retiring, "but I wouldn't get the full pension because you need 30 years for that. I'm really caught in a bad situation," he said.

"Over the years, I've had several college and pro offers, and I always had the pension in the back of my mind because I invested so much in money and time. Now, it looks like I should have taken one of [the offers]. But I've always liked it at Northeast. I've always had a good relationship with the parents and kids. I just don't understand this."

In 26 seasons as head baseball coach -- he stepped down for two years before reclaiming the job in 1969 -- Lentz won 341 games, three state championships and one district title. His crowning achievement came in 1991, when the Eagles went 24-0 and were voted national champions by Collegiate Baseball magazine.

"I haven't had a chance to talk to any of my players," he said. "One of the parents called and said they made a videotape from the players that they want to present to me, which I really appreciate.

"For some of the kids, it's going to be very tough. I don't know if the people at the board of education really understand that kids do gravitate to coaches and class advisers, people they spend a lot more than just classroom time with them. Many times, athletics and extracurricular activities keep the kids in school and interested in their academics. In that aspect, we've helped out a lot of kids over there."

The controversies involving Lentz and Stitt are among a series of events this year that have rocked the school's athletic department.

Softball coach Ronald Walter Price was arrested in April and charged with sexual child abuse. And earlier this month, Chuck Yocum, a coach with the track and field, wrestling and football programs, was charged with the same crime.

"I don't know which way that [athletic] program is going to go," said Lentz. "I can't see that by removing Stitt and I on allegations such as this, that this is going to improve the morale at the school or help it out. I just don't see it."

Lentz has received plenty of support from parents, students and faculty members. Two demonstrations have taken place at the school to protest the transfer.

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