Parent scrutinizes camp director's abilities

August 01, 1994|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Sun Staff Writer

A parent concerned about Taneytown Recreation Director Carla McCarron's supervision of children at the city's summer day camp plans to raise the issue with city officials.

Victoria DeMaria, who complained that her 6-year-old daughter and other day campers at Taneytown Rod and Gun Club Park were left in the care of other children, will question the mayor and City Council at the Aug. 8 council meeting about Mrs. McCarron's qualifications.

"At this point, what I am trying to do is get someone more qualified to take the position," Ms. DeMaria said.

"I don't feel she is as experienced as she should be to take care of things," she said.

"I want them to be a little more selective than to hire relatives," Ms. DeMaria said. "You shouldn't hire someone just because you know them."

Mrs. McCarron, the daughter-in-law of Councilman James L. McCarron, was hired in April to coordinate the city's recreational activities.

She is a former Spa Lady manager and restaurateur. She is also the head field hockey coach at Delone Catholic High School in Pennsylvania.

Ms. DeMaria told city officials July 22 that Mrs. McCarron was routinely leaving campers with youth counselors -- the oldest was 14 -- for more than 45 minutes, City Manager John L. Kendall said.

She also called county and state health agencies, and discovered the day camp was not registered with the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's youth camp office.

"We were not registered as a youth camp with the state and we should have been," Mr. Kendall said. "It was an oversight."

That oversight was corrected Thursday when Mr. Kendall and Mrs. McCarron met with Pam Engle, a representative for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and discussed the situation.

Ms. Engle instructed the city to submit its day camp operating procedures to Health and Mental Hygiene's youth camp section.

The state must be notified of a camp's hours and length in April before the start of the camp season.

"I'm kind of glad she did it [called the state] because we would not have known otherwise," Mrs. McCarron said.

"She [Ms. DeMaria] didn't have to go to the extent that she did, but now we know."

Ms. DeMaria said regulations and licensing are not the point.

"I just hope that they realize that the issue is not that they were not licensed," the Daisy Drive resident said.

"The issue is that she left those children alone in a dangerous place."

Mrs. McCarron said she left the children with volunteer counselors -- the oldest of whom was 14 -- to go to Taneytown Memorial Park and check on the tennis camp, another summer activity she was overseeing.

A tennis instructor supervised the 8- to 12-year-olds in that camp.

Jeremy David Hall -- at 14, the oldest counselor -- said the day campers were involved in mostly indoor activities while Mrs. McCarron was away.

"All we were doing while she was gone was having snack time and doing arts and crafts," said Jeremy, who will be 15 this month. "We also had them playing water balloons."

The recreation director said she had never left the campers alone before the week of July 25.

"I had never left them before at all in the first session and I wouldn't have left them this week, either," she said. "It was only because of tennis camp."

She said she understands Ms. DeMaria's concern, but feels the children were in good hands.

She left her own children -- Barbie, 7; Samantha, 5; and Jimmy, 3 -- with the young counselors.

Parent Barb Valentine agreed.

"My son has loved it," she said of Richie, 4. Her nephew Robert Duncan was also a day camper. "The counselors seem very capable. We don't have any concerns."

Mrs. Valentine said it did not trouble her that the camp was not registered with the state.

"It's all taken care of now," Mrs. Valentine said. "And in fact, I hope they will have it next year."

Said Mrs. McCarron, "I'd love to have it again next year, but I don't even know if the mayor and council will hire me back again. The kids all loved it and the parents have been very supportive."

Mrs. McCarron was told by city officials never to leave the children unsupervised again.

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