Parham has school reins for 4 years

February 24, 1994|By Carol L. Bowers and Andrea F. Siegel | Carol L. Bowers and Andrea F. Siegel,Sun Staff Writers

Carol S. Parham was named superintendent of Anne Arundel County public schools last night by a unanimous vote of the school board. Her appointment takes effect July 1.

Dr. Parham, who was named acting superintendent July 31, 1993, and promoted earlier this month to interim status, will be paid $100,000 in the first year of a four-year state-mandated term.

The 44-year-old Ellicott City resident took over the troubled school system when then-Superintendent C. Berry Carter II was put on administrative leave pending the outcome of an RTC investigation into how he handled suspected child-abuse cases.

At the time, Dr. Parham was director of human resources.

Mr. Carter resigned Oct. 27 after the investigation report criticized his handling of child-abuse cases.

"As president of the board, I, perhaps as much as anyone else, had day-to-day contact with Dr. Parham, and over the months I became convinced we could not be better served than to have Dr. Parham continue to lead this school system," said Thomas Twombly, reading last night from a prepared statement.

He and other board members praised Dr. Parham's ability to provide new energy and a calming influence on a school system bound in turmoil since a teacher-student sex scandal caught the nation's attention last year.

At last night's board meeting were Dr. Parham's husband, William Parham Jr., and their two children, William III, a 17-year-old Centennial High School senior, and Julie, a 20-year-old Georgetown University junior.

"I love you all," Dr. Parham told her family at the beginning of her acceptance speech. To the public, she acknowledged that the process leading to her appointment had caused some controversy.

"While I am humbled and flattered by this appointment, at the same time I relish the task laid before me," Dr. Parham said. "To those who may have supported another candidate or another approach, I fully understand and respect your views."

All eight board members voted for her, but two spoke out about their dissatisfaction with the method of selection.

"We have not had any formal public input," said board Vice

President Joseph Foster. "I would like to have conducted a search since this is the 47th-largest school system in the country. We would have attracted some of the best talent in this country."

Maureen Carr-York, another board member, pledged her support Dr. Parham but said "the public could have been better informed."

National search was hinted

On several occasions since Mr. Carter's resignation, board members, including the president, had indicated that there would be a search, most likely national in scope.

With the Jan. 7 resignation of board member Jo Ann Tollenger, however, rumors began to surface that the board had entered into negotiations with a candidate.

As recently as Jan. 25, Mr. Twombly met with members of the Association of Educational Leaders to discuss the issue of the superintendent's position, seeking their input as to what qualifications the board should look for in a candidate.

The group's newsletter, now in preparation, had that information in it.

"We broke bread at our AEL meeting. Apparently, Mr. Twombly decided to break his promise," said Richard Kovelant, executive director of the union for principals and administrators.

"They just about said, 'The ends justify the means.' That's their example," Mr. Kovelant said.

He praised Dr. Parham and said, "We'll be able to work together."

Mr. Kovelant noted that she spoke of the importance of setting good examples for children.

Mr. Kovelant is the lawyer for William Wentworth, principal at North County High School.

Mr. Wentworth has sued the school system, contending that he was passed over for a promotion as a result of reverse discrimination.

Thomas J. Paolino, president of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, praised Dr. Parham, saying the board made "a great choice."

"I'm just concerned about the board and whether they can get their act together," he said.

Carolyn Roeding, president of the County Council of PTAs, also voiced her support of Dr. Parham. Mrs. Roeding protested the board's handling of the appointment, however, saying "the public was deceived into believing there would be a national search."

Secrecy explained

In his speech, Mr. Twombly said one reason the board kept secret its negotiations with Dr. Parham was that state law allows personnel decisions to be made in "executive sessions," out of the public eye.

"In reference to the past, we had learned from our experiences that we were not going to offer the position of superintendent to someone unless and until an employment contract had been fully and completely negotiated," Mr. Twombly said.

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