Upset by the transfers of three popular faculty members, about 40 parents and students picketed outside Perry Hall Middle School last night, demanding the teachers' reinstatement and the principal's removal.
Carrying posters that read "Two Thumbs Down on Forced Transfers" and "Stuart Berger, Listen and Lead," the demonstrators shouted, "Save our schools, save our staff" before a storm cut short their protest.
Stuart Berger is county school superintendent.
Joe Guadagnoli, a parent, said he was protesting because, "The people of Perry Hall and the quality of education are being victimized" by principal Thomas Evans. "It's about time people stood up and got what they want for their children, and not take what is doled out."
The protest was the latest episode in a long-simmering dispute over changes at the county's largest middle school, where Mr. Evans was named principal two years ago.
A group of teachers and parents criticize Mr. Evans as autocratic and unsympathetic to teachers' needs.
But Mr. Evans and his supervisors say the critics are a small group who are upset over changes in the middle-school curriculum.
"Things have not gone well this year. It seems to be getting worse and worse and worse," said seventh-grade teacher Caroline Seamon, who also has a child at Perry Hall.
Mrs. Seamon said teachers are afraid of retribution if they oppose the principal.
Mr. Evans said yesterday that his opponents are a "small but very vocal group" of parents and teachers, and the teachers' union, who "clearly want me gone."
He said the parents who protested last night "spend no time in the school and are listening to a slanted point of view."
Several teachers interviewed last week blamed poor morale on Mr. Evans' unyielding attitude, the transfers of popular teachers, and implementation of programs that many staff members do not support.
Criticism of Mr. Evans intensified several months ago when he announced administrative transfers of three veteran teachers.
The reason given for the transfers was that they "no longer contributed to the positive climate at this school," said Janet Gallagher, a parent who led last night's protest.
One of the three, music teacher Fern Weber, has taught for 17 years at Perry Hall.
She is popular in the community, has won many honors for Perry Hall, and received only outstanding evaluations from her supervisors, including Mr. Evans, Ms. Gallagher said.
An administrative transfer means a teacher is moved involuntarily at the request of the principal and subsequent approval of the superintendent. The state Board of Education has deemed such transfers legal, said Linda James, a negotiator for the Teachers Association of Baltimore County.
"In some case, they are appropriate decisions. Some principals have used it if teachers disagree with them," Ms. James said.
Mr. Evans said yesterday that the three teachers he "selected to be removed from here need to be removed. Their instruction is fine. What it comes down to is they have made choices about what they are going to implement and what they are not going to implement and that is not their choice."