Powell removed as principal

April 07, 1995|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,Sun Staff Writer

The principal of embattled Randallstown High School, whose two-year tenure was marked by faculty defections and increasing violence, has been removed, in part at his own request, the Baltimore County school system announced yesterday.

Clark R. Powell's duties will be assumed until the end of the school year by Patsy Holmes, the northwest area director of high schools who was sent in February to help him run Randallstown.

The school's problems had included racial tension, fighting and a rash of arson incidents, as well as claims that Mr. Powell had alienated the faculty with an authoritarian style.

In an interview yesterday at his western Baltimore County home, Mr. Powell said he called Superintendent Stuart Berger last week lTC and they arrived at the conclusion that "my leaving was probably the best alternative -- the situation was deteriorating to the point where something needed to be done."

Dr. Berger apparently wasted no time in finding a permanent successor. In a letter to parents, the superintendent said Barry F. Williams will take charge of Randallstown this summer. He is principal at the Rosedale Center for Alternative Studies, a school for disruptive students.

Mr. Williams, an educator in the county schools for 20 years, said Dr. Berger asked him to take the job last week. "It was a surprise to me," he said in a telephone interview."

The change came at the request of the beleaguered Mr. Powell, county schools spokesman Charles Herndon said.

"The fact [is] that this was done in part to accommodate Mr. Powell's wishes, and also to give the school a fresh start, after what I think has been a tough year," he said. "I think everyone over there is wanting very much to look ahead, and with a new administration, we're hoping that this will translate to a continued spirit of excitement."

The departing principal, asked why he saw the need for a change, said, "Some of the ideas I had as far as how to bring about change possibly upset some people who didn't understand what I was trying to do."

Mr. Powell, who moved from Michigan to take the position at Randallstown, said the school turmoil has not been easy for him. He went to talk to a minister, he said, but has not shed any tears.

"If I was going to cry, I probably would've cried a long time ago . . . when I thought that there was hope. At this point in time, I'm . . . beyond this thing," he said. He said he was "enjoying relaxing" for the first time since he arrived at Randallstown High.

"I put a lot of time, effort, commitment and loyalty into Randallstown, and you can't just walk away from something like that," he said, adding, "I was a role model for kids and some of those values that I've tried to instill -- I could go to the other side of the earth, but those values will stay for a lifetime."

If he could do it over, he said, "I would probably spend more time understanding the culture of the school, the community, the whole inner workings."

Mr. Powell, who is black, has attributed many of the school's problems to demographic changes in the Randallstown area, which has become the center of the county's growing black population.

In February, after a racially tinged fight in the school parking lot, a handful of parents kept their children home for a week. Soon after, many white parents told the administration at a meeting that the school was unsafe for their children. Many of the school's teachers, including several department heads, have transferred to other schools or requested transfers.

Dr. Berger's choice is a longtime resident of Randallstown whose son graduated from the high school 12 years ago.

"Randallstown is a community school," said Mr. Williams, 41, who is black. "The students there have a lot of potential. Some of them are doing some pretty terrific things right now, and I'd like to help them become more effective," he said.

"I think I have the right combination -- being student-centered, being a coalition builder, and having a firm commitment to strong instructional practices," he added.

Mr. Williams visited the school yesterday, meeting with the faculty in an hourlong session at which the change -- already the subject of speculation among students -- was announced. He also met with several student leaders. He plans to return today to talk to more students, and to start spending his mornings at the 100-student Rosedale school and afternoons at Randallstown.

"Mr. Williams and Ms. Holmes will work collaboratively to assemble the best possible staff and administration for the new school year," Dr. Berger said in his letter to parents.

There was no word yesterday on Mr. Powell's future duties. He said he thought he will be reassigned to another county school -- most likely an alternative high school.

"I'm looking forward to talking to Dr. Berger and firming up whatever I'm going to be doing. . . . [Dr. Berger] is going to make sure I have a job that has some substance," he said, "not something to pacify me."

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