Don't Hide Arundel School Report

September 24, 1993

Attorney Alan I. Barron's investigation -- for which taxpayers paid plenty -- of the handling of the Ronald W. Price sex scandal by Anne Arundel Superintendent C. Berry Carter is complete.

But guess what? The Anne Arundel school board doesn't want to let anyone know what it says, at least not now.

Some board members do not want to release this critical section of the report until November, when the entire investigation is to be finished -- even though they are due to meet tonight to discuss (and possibly decide) Mr. Carter's fate.

That means the superintendent, who is on a paid leave of absence, could be fired or forced out in the next few days, but the public would not understand why for two months.

Arundel school officials have taken a beating for half a year for not being honest with the public about the negligence that abetted Price's crimes. One would think they would realize by now that residents and school employees alike will not have confidence in the system until they know problems are not being hidden.

Board members counter that they cannot release the report card on Mr. Carter. They say it would create chaos. Yet what do they think withholding the report creates? They argue this is "a personnel matter."

The latter is a predictable excuse. Personnel laws are broad, giving bureaucracies an effective shield behind which to hide when questions arise about an individual's performance. But the justification does not work in this case.

First, the board plans to unveil the findings on Mr. Carter in November anyway. If it won't be a personnel matter in November, how can it be one September?

Second, and more important, this is fundamentally a question of how the schools will be run -- a very public matter. The stability of a school system depends on public trust, and trust in Mr. Carter has eroded irreparably. If the board is considering restoring him to his position, it cannot expect that trust to reappear magically; people need to see why they should trust the superintendent. By the same token, if the board fires Mr. Carter, people need to know why. They must see that the decision was justified. They must know what he did wrong.

The board should release the Carter report card now. Whatever commotion the panel fears will result pales next to the rumors and distrust that will flourish if the report is withheld.

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