Northeast split over principal

January 27, 1994|By Carol L. Bowers and Andrea F. Siegel | Carol L. Bowers and Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writers

A growing debate over whether Northeast High School Principal Joseph Carducci should remain at the school is pitting the leadership of the school's Parent-Teacher-Student Association against its countywide umbrella organization.

Rumors of Dr. Carducci's departure have persisted almost since the day in April 1993 when Ronald Walter Price, a social studies teacher at Northeast, was arrested and charged with having sex with a student. They increased as the number of students Price was accused of abusing grew to eight, and became even louder when police lodged similar charges against two more teachers there.

Speculation reached a crescendo with the December release of a special counsel's recommendation that Dr. Carducci be removed because his management style was "detrimental to the best interests of the school."

The county PTA council supports the special counsel's recommendation that Dr. Carducci be removed, but the leadership of the school's PTSA is calling for him to remain.

Dr. Carducci says he has no desire to leave. "I can tell you I haven't asked to move since I came to Northeast," he said last week.

Although criticized in the report for his initial reluctance to accept counseling offered for students in the aftermath of the sex scandal, Dr. Carducci has said he "can sleep at night" knowing he's done his best for the students.

Transferring a principal is solely up to Acting School Superintendent Carol S. Parham. Such transfers are often accompanied by a chain reaction of other transfers, and school board approval is needed if any promotions are involved.

Wednesday is the school board's next scheduled meeting -- the earliest board members could approve any such transfers.

In an attempt to quell rumors and respond to parents' questions, the PTA council has arranged a meeting for Feb. 7 at the school between Dr. Parham and the Northeast community. "I don't really view this as dueling PTA factions," said Carolyn Roeding, president of the County Council of PTAs. "Essentially, we're both saying the same thing -- we need to get information to the parents."

Among the questions parents have been asking, said Mrs. Roeding, is why the Anne Arundel County Board of Education hasn't acted on any of the report's recommendations, even though it accepted its conclusions.

The probe was ordered to determine how the school system mishandled child abuse cases.

The Northeast PTSA's executive board has sent letters to area newspapers criticizing the Baron report -- named for lead investigator Alan I. Baron -- for failing to take into account the school's successes last year, including higher test scores.

The president of Northeast's PTSA, Linda Tetrault, sent a letter to Mrs. Roeding -- also a Northeast parent -- asking the County Council of PTAs to support keeping Dr. Carducci. Similar letters went to state School Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick and Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

Mrs. Tetrault, too, downplayed the differences between the PTSA and the PTA council, noting that Mrs. Roeding serves on several school PTSA committees.

Nonetheless, the Council of PTAs has said the Baron report's recommendations -- including the removal of Dr. Carducci -- should be carried out.

Mrs. Tetrault said she is concerned about continuity. "I'm just asking that no changes in the administration be made this school year," she said. "If they're going to do something, do it at the end of the school year so the students can come back to a faculty and administration that -- barring anything catastrophic -- will be with them through the whole year."

Some Northeast parents, convinced that Dr. Carducci needs to go, counter that the school's PTSA doesn't speak for them.

"Why transfer the two assistant principals the way they did and not the principal? Why not the whole team?" asked parent Chris Kirby. "Dr. Carducci is cited rather critically in the Baron report. If the board accepted the Baron report, I don't see that they have any other alternative but to remove him. A lot of parents are wondering, what is it going to take?"

Mrs. Roeding criticized the Board of Education and Dr. Parham for not meeting with parents since the Baron report was released. She noted that it took months last year to convince Dr. Carducci and Board of Education staff to meet with parents concerned about how child-abuse accusations against teachers were affecting their own children's schooling.

"They had a press conference to release the Baron report, why not a meeting with parents? Why have they delayed?" asked Mrs. Roeding.

Meanwhile, at least some of the Northeast community has had its fill of the school's seemingly endless controversies.

"I'm just fed up with the whole thing," said one woman, who asked that her name not be used. "We're seriously considering moving. So are others we know. We're waiting to see what happens. We're waiting for Wednesday."

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