School audit spurs police investigation Milford Mill Academy principal ordered to leave

'It's a grand mess'

2 department heads demoted to teachers

officials are silent

July 27, 1996|By Marego Athans | Marego Athans,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County police are investigating the former principal of Milford Mill Academy and the school's finances after a school district audit -- fueling anxiety at the magnet school as a new academic year approaches.

No permanent new principal has been appointed to the public high school. And at least two department chairmen have been stripped of their titles and claim unfair treatment and racism.

Staff members say they are under a gag order. Rumors are

rampant.

Meanwhile, school system officials refuse to explain any of this, saying it is a confidential personnel matter.

Students will arrive for classes Aug. 26, about a month away.

"It's a grand mess ," said Ella White Campbell, an education and community activist in the Randallstown area. "It's a gross miscarriage of justice not to give the public the details. It creates a lot of speculation in the community that has a way of escalating until the truth is told.

"The welfare of those children should be of utmost concern," she said. "You don't need friction among staff when the kids come back to school."

The problems surfaced May 17. After an audit, then-principal P. Delores Mbah was abruptly told to leave the school and placed on paid administrative leave. Assistant Principal Vashti C. Goldstein was made administrator in charge.

Auditors had been in the school interviewing staff members and reviewing records, teachers said, but no detailed explanation was provided.

Mbah and her attorney declined to comment.

After a review, the county attorney has passed the audit to county police, who say their white-collar crime unit is in the preliminary stages of an investigation.

Racism charged

Meanwhile, the chairmen of at least two departments were demoted recently to teaching positions.

The two, who were interviewed this week, charge that they are being unfairly linked to allegations against Mbah.

The former chairmen said this week that they also believe the moves were racially motivated. The department chairmen who have been demoted -- as well as the former principal and the administrator now in charge -- are black.

Some teachers have requested transfers.

"I want out of here," one said. "I don't like the atmosphere. It's not a good climate because of everything that's been happening."

School on upswing

None of the nine teachers and other staff members interviewed would allow their names to be published; they said they fear losing their jobs.

All said they had been told by administrators not to discuss the subject.

One former department chairman said the investigation began as the school was on the upswing, improving its once-poor reputation with two magnet programs -- the college preparatory Academic International Baccalaureate and a technical program with career-oriented training.

"I don't believe any of us would have been targeted for any problems had Delores not been removed," the former department chairman said. "They're discrediting our professional competency. They can keep their department chairmanships, but this is like a doctor being sued for malpractice."

School system officials will not say what -- if any -- action they expect to take with Mbah.

Demands for stability

The school system's personnel department would not release Mbah's exact salary yesterday. The salary for high school principals is generally $70,500 or $72,500, and a school district spokesman said Mbah is collecting full salary while on leave.

PTA President Valerie Green said parents hope that Goldstein is named principal. "Their demands are for some stability to come to the school," she said.

School board member Robert Dashiell, whose two daughters attend the school, said the superintendent needs to appoint a new principal swiftly.

"In light of the conditions that have been reported to me, it's obvious that what's seriously lacking at this point is leadership in the building," he said.

Pub Date: 7/27/96

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