Accused parent seeks board member's ouster

October 30, 1994|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Sun Staff Writer

A Seven Oaks parent accused of making "elitist and racist" remarks wants the county school board member who made the allegation removed from office.

"It is inconceivable to me as a parent that a member of the school board, any school board, would resort to or be allowed to make blatantly personal attacks on a parent," Zoe B. Draughon wrote in a letter to Gov. William Donald Schaefer last week.

She is demanding Maureen Carr-York's removal and a public apology. Ms. Draughon said the comments nearly two weeks ago affected her ability to serve as a community association leader. In her letter to Mr. Schaefer, she wrote, "Indeed, it appears that personal attacks on parents is an acceptable practice."

Certainly the alleged attacks are occurring with what some parents say is a troubling frequency. They also say these remarks indicate tension between parents and board members.

Carolyn Roeding, the former county PTA council president, said earlier this year that a board member accused her of using publicity surrounding a teacher-student sex scandal to help her campaign for House of Delegates. The board member later apologized, but Mrs. Roeding said the accusation still stings.

"Once you question them, you become the enemy. You're not supposed to ask questions. You're supposed to turn your children over and they'll do what's best," said Mrs. Roeding, who did not win election. "Why do they have a public participation segment in the meeting if they don't want public participation?"

In another incident, the state PTA president complained that school board members were rude to her at a meeting she attended to see why the board chose not to discipline mid-level administrators who broke state law by not reporting suspected child abuse.

In the Oct. 19 exchange, Ms. Draughon accused Ms. Carr-York of being biased against Seven Oaks residents because she had referred to the group as "those people." She also asked her not to vote on redistricting issues affecting the community. The community, near Odenton, has been fighting to keep neighborhood children from being transferred to a planned Meade Area Elementary.

At the time, Ms. Carr-York replied: "Is it not true, Ms. Draughon, that you do not want me to vote on the redistricting issue because I remember that in the very beginning [of the redistricting controversy] you called me and made elitist and racist remarks?"

Ms. Draughon denies having the conversation, but Ms. Carr-York said she stands by her original statement and defended the sharp rebuttal.

"I'm supposed to be tactful when she attacks me in a board session?" Ms. Carr-York asked when told of the call for her removal from the board.

"Tactful when confronted with the sort of nasty invective she hurled at me? There's a limit to what any human being can take."

Ms. Carr-York said the exchange was a rarity, and said people "should not be afraid to approach me or the board on any issue. "

Thomas Twombly, the school board's vice president, said board members have withstood much criticism since a teacher-student sex scandal broke over a year ago.

"Since April 1993 it has been very difficult to be a board member in Anne Arundel County," he said. "Working constantly in a crisis mode does not foster the patience that is sometimes necessary when making tough decisions."

Communicating with parents, he said, is "essential to understanding problems and frustrations."

Michael A. Pace, board president, said discussions between board members and parents are sometimes naturally emotional.

"Parents feel very passionately about anything that affects the most important thing in their lives -- their children," he said.

"Even at the risk of extending our meetings, we rarely cut people off or hold them to the time limit."

Cathy Guay of the Glendale Elementary PTA has addressed the board several times this year, speaking sometimes, she said, with just such passion.

"I wasn't treated [rudely], but there were times when I was humbled and wished I hadn't gone up there upset," she said.

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