Plagued by sex scandals, school tries for a fresh start

August 27, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

There was one common concern among the 350 ninth-graders who attended orientation at Northeast High School last night: getting lost.

"I've just had the tour, and I don't know what's going on. I'm afraid I'll get lost the first day of classes," said Carrie Cline, 14, who will start at Northeast Wednesday.

Despite the presence of reporters outside the school, Principal Joseph Carducci said the evening proceeded normally, with school administrators explaining the rules and regulations of the school and preparing students for what to expect on their first day.

"We wouldn't think that in one night we'd dispel all their concerns," Dr. Carducci said. "But we have opportunities here as well as problems, and our goal now is to come out a better school."

Parents who attended the orientation with their children said they were comfortable with sending them to Northeast, despite the sex scandal for which the school has gained unwanted notice.

"Having reporters at orientation? It's a little preposterous," said Carrie's mother, Nancy Elliott. "They're worried about getting on camera and being interviewed instead of learning about school."

Brenda Masiello, whose 14-year-old daughter also will attend Northeast, said that more than anything else, she is "concerned the kids will be teased for attending this school."

The meeting, aimed at preparing ninth-graders for their first year of high school, reflected the school system's latest efforts to begin rebuilding students' trust in their teachers and restore normality to the school routine.

Officials fear that news of sex scandals at the school could overshadow the fall semester.

The trial of Ronald Walter Price, the first of three Northeast High teachers accused of having sexual relationships with student, is set for Sept. 7, a week after classes begin. Mr. Price, who taught social studies at the school for nearly 25 years, has admitted having sexual relationships with eight young women while they were his students.

The trial of Laurie S. Cook, a science teacher at Northeast who is accused of having a sexual relationship with a male student, is scheduled to begin Sept. 28.

No trial date has been set for Charles A. Yocum, a science, social studies and special education teacher who is charged with one count of child sex abuse.

The county school board also will be struggling to meet several mandates from the state school superintendent, including an independent investigator's probe into how the school system handled the Price case and the reporting of child sex abuse.

That report is due in November.

School system administrators have a plan to help teachers and students at Northeast cope with the pressures this year.

Nancy S. Grasmick, the state school superintendent, has ordered the school system to make extra counseling available, but the school system's plan goes beyond that.

In addition to providing a full-time psychiatrist and nurse at the school, counseling will be offered after school hours and at a site off-campus.

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