Unrest in Havre de Grace

June 27, 1995

The allegedly forced transfer of a half-dozen veteran teachers from Havre de Grace Elementary School by the principal has unleashed emotions that are not going to be calmed by Harford County school board promises of hiring a mediator to resolve the situation in the fall.

Especially when the Harford school board and administration conveniently shield themselves from public discussion behind the hoary excuse, "It's a personnel matter." And when Superintendent Ray Keech gives unquestioned authority to Principal Franklin Tull to make those questionable personnel decisions.

The affected teachers also cannot speak out directly because their careers are at stake; they must speak through their union representative.

So it is understandable that parents would feel compelled to voice their concerns through their only vehicle, the Parent Teacher Association.

Now school board member Richard Daub has asked that the charter of the Havre de Grace Elementary PTA be revoked. The president, Jerry Ashby, called for the ouster of Mr. Tull, which violates the charter prohibition on interfering with administrative actions, Mr. Daub asserts.

The PTA walks a fine line in bringing together school parents and teachers (and the administration). But it is the only organization available for parents to use in challenging official decisions in this particular case.

Ronald Eaton, school board president, underlined the school board's insulation from the community in refusing to let concerned parents speak about transfers at the board's meeting.

The loss of good, experienced teachers to a school that needs them cannot be dismissed as mere administrative discretion. Mr. Ashby and the union say the transfers are punishment for disagreements with Mr. Tull.

If the administration and school board have strong rationale for the move, they should provide it. For now, however, they refuse to reconsider the matter, and county government has no authority.

The school system hoped the furor would die down until it hired a mediator this fall. But Mr. Daub will not let the matter rest. Neither will parents and the teachers' union. So the board and administration have no choice but to examine the matter now, before school resumes, if they are to restore public trust at Havre de Grace Elementary.

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