Superintendent choice angers parents

February 23, 1994|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer Carol L. Bowers contributed to this article.

The Anne Arundel County Board of Education is prepared to name Carol S. Parham as superintendent of schools tonight, but an angry group of Severna Park parents is demanding that the board conduct the nationwide search its president had said it would make.

Sources close to the board say Dr. Parham, the school system's former director of human resources and now interim superintendent, has the five votes she needs to assume the post July 1.

There are eight board members.

But in the past week, Severna Park and Millersville-area parents have been rushing to get signatures on a petition asking the board to include unions, parents and business owners in a national -- or at least regional -- search.

"Their integrity is in question here," said Barbara Birkenheuer, president of the Severna Park Middle School Parent Teacher Organization and a leader of the petition drive.

She said the parents are not questioning the qualifications of Dr. Parham, a 44-year-old Ellicott City resident credited with bringing calm to a school system in turmoil amid a scandal that involved teachers having sex with students.

Rather, Ms. Birkenheuer said, the school board appears to have been saying one thing and doing another.

"If in fact they want to offer her the position, they should have just told us -- stand behind your decision," Ms. Birkenheuer said.

School board President Thomas Twombly, who refused to discuss the matter this week, spoke about a search as early as last October, after Superintendent C. Berry Carter II resigned.

On Jan. 25 he told the Association of Educational Leaders that there would be a search and that the board was interested in what the principals and administrators union had to say, said Richard Kovalent, executive director of the 250-member group.

But board members never took a public vote on how to fill the superintendent's position. No search has begun.

Jo Ann Tollenger, who resigned from the board Jan. 7, said she did so partly because the board majority had voted in executive session to negotiate a contract with a particular person.

While she declined to say who was being offered the job, speculation centered on Dr. Parham, who was appointed acting superintendent July 31, after Mr. Carter went on administrative leave amid criticism of his role in disciplining teachers accused of sexually abusing students.

She was elevated to interim superintendent Feb. 2.

A former Baltimore teacher and personnel administrator, Dr. Parham earned a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Maryland College Park.

State law requires a local school board to have a new superintendent in the job by July 1.

If the board were to to conduct a search beyond current employees and applicants who filed for the job at the time Mr. Carter was appointed in 1992, advertisements would have to be placed immediately in professional publications and newspapers.

State law sets a minimum salary of $14,000 a year.

Anne Arundel County schools paid Mr. Carter $95,000 last year.

Dr. Parham would not comment last night.

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