School superintendent resigns in Arundel Carter had been focus of investigation into the reporting of child abuse

October 27, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers and Andrea F. Siegel | Carol L. Bowers and Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writers

Anne Arundel County School Superintendent C. Berry Carter II resigned shortly before 11 p.m. last night after rebutting a report critical of his handling of child abuse cases brought to his attention during his years in the system's No. 2 post.

Mr. Carter, on paid administrative leave since July 31, met privately for several hours with school board members, gave oral and written rebuttals to the findings of an investigative report, then resigned. He left without a word, accompanied by his wife and his secretary of many years. His lawyer, William W. Cahill Jr., stayed behind to confirm Mr. Carter's resignation. When asked why his client resigned, Mr. Cahill said only, "He chose to."

Mr. Carter's resignation after 39 years in the school system will take effect Monday .

The investigation into Mr. Carter's actions during his 18-year tenure as deputy superintendent was completed three weeks ago, but the results have not been made public.

The school board will release an edited version of the report at 4 p.m. today, along with Mr. Carter's written response to the allegations against him contained in the report.

"I was surprised," said Thomas Twombly, school board president, who announced the resignation after a five-hour, closed-door meeting with Mr. Carter and his lawyer, and the independent investigators the board had hired to look into Mr. Carter's actions.

The board did not request Mr. Carter's resignation nor did it buy out his contract, school board members said.

The news shocked education and community leaders.

"To tell you the truth, I am at a real loss. I didn't know what to expect," County Executive Robert R. Neall said.

"I feel bad for the school system, I feel bad for Berry," he said.

Thomas A. Paolino, president of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, said, "I thought he'd fight. It's a shame to have 39 years of service to the school system and an outstanding reputation go down like this."

Nancy S. Grasmick, the state school superintendent who ordered the local investigation into how Mr. Carter and the school system handled complaints that teachers and coaches had abused students, said, "I wasn't expecting this. I am glad the matter is concluded and the school system can now move forward."

Mr. Carter, 61, lasted a little more than a year as superintendent and his tenure was a troubled one.

Appointed to the $95,000-a-year-post July 1, 1992, in a 5-3 vote, Mr. Carter was not awarded a $5,000 merit bonus this year. He did not sign his contract until two weeks before he was put on leave.

Last night's action makes Mr. Carter the third consecutive Anne Arundel superintendent who has not completed the standard four-year term. The contracts of previous superintendents, Robert C. Rice and Larry Lorton, were bought out.

The school board appeared to be gearing up for a battle with Mr. Carter by hiring a lawyer specializing in contracts, John Shay, to advise the board on Mr. Carter's employment status.

Mr. Carter was placed on leave after a state Department of Education investigation found that in 1987, he allegedly knew one teacher had been accused of being sexually involved with a student, but never reported the case to social services or police as required by law.

That teacher, Ronald Walter Price, created a stir after his arrest in April for having sex with a 16-year-old student at Northeast High School. Price appeared on the "Geraldo!" syndicated television show and admitted his indiscretions with at least seven other teen-age girls, two of whom he married. Price, who has said all along that school officials knew of his activities but failed to stop him, was convicted of child sex abuse and sentenced this month to 26 years in prison.

Marlene Ramey, a former Northeast teacher who had tried to report an incident in which she saw Price embracing a student, said last night the allegations were ones "that perhaps the system did not want to hear, that the system did not want to deal with."

In response to Price's allegations, Dr. Grasmick ordered a state investigation and was outraged to learn that Ms. Ramey's and other teachers' efforts to report alleged child abuse were largely ignored by county school administrators.

At Dr. Grasmick's behest, the county school board hired Alan I. Baron for $106,000 to investigate Mr. Carter's role and look for system-wide flaws in how child abuse complaints have been handled. Mr. Baron's system-wide investigation is due to be completed Nov. 30.

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