For Baltimore Co., it's status quo School board responds to critical report BALTIMORE COUNTY

September 02, 1993|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

What happens now that an investigative task force has issued a scathing report on the Baltimore County school superintendent and the Board of Education?

Not much, at least not soon, according to the school board's response to the report it commissioned.

Repeatedly criticized by parents and teachers for its arrogance and lack of communication, the board declined all but cursory comment on the report yesterday. It cited pending litigation on the two major issues involved -- a shake-up in which Superintendent Stuart Berger demoted or transferred about 40 administrators and the transfer of hundreds of disabled students from special education centers to neighborhood schools, often against their parents' wishes.

The board's reluctance to comment, or to act on the recommendations, is likely to displease many who were hoping for changes before school opens Tuesday.

"It's important that the board send out some sign that the board can be trusted this year," said Ray Suarez, the new president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County.

"The board has to take some quick and some good-faith actions. The teachers are not up [for the opening of school]. They are . . . very, very apprehensive," he said.

"I think that they need to respond fairly quickly," said Liz Crosby, president of the PTA Council of Baltimore County. "The parents I've talked to are still very concerned. They want things to be better. We have kids coming to school Tuesday."

The lengthy report, released Tuesday, criticized Dr. Berger and the school board for moving too hurriedly on the transfers of disabled students and for acting too subjectively in handling the administrative demotions and changing the rules governing personnel moves.

It included 11 recommendations for healing a school system that it said has been wracked by controversy and has suffered a loss of credibility.

Although board President Alan Leberknight Tuesday promised a thoughtful and expeditious response" to the report, all that came forth yesterday was a one-page statement citing pending legal issues.

The board spent five hours Tuesday night in closed session poring over the document, which contained little that it had not already heard.

"It's a big report, and we're just getting started," Mr. Leberknight said yesterday.

In its brief statement, the board cited a federal lawsuit challenging the transfers of disabled students and noted that several of the administrators demoted or transferred are pursuing appeals within the system.

"Further comment from both the Board of Education and the school administration will be withheld until these legal actions are resolved," the statment said. "The board emphasized that it will continue to work diligently on its review of and response to the task force report."

Neither Mr. Suarez nor Ms. Crosby would be specific about what the board needs to do to restore confidence in the schools.

Mr. Suarez did say "there has to be a major, major change in management style."

And that will be difficult, he added, because Dr. Berger told the task force's investigative staff that if he were to implement the same changes again, "he would do so in the same way."

Sanford Teplitzky, the Baltimore lawyer who chaired the task force, said he is "comfortable that the board is taking our recommendations seriously. . . . While [the report] indicates that there are problems, the [school system's] goals are good goals."

Mr. Suarez, Mr. Teplitzky and Ms. Crosby expressed confidence in Mr. Leberknight's leadership and the more open manner in which he has conducted board business since he took over as president in July.

"I have more confidence in the school board than maybe some people have," said Mr. Teplitzky.

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