The truth keeps Mosley out of superintendent job

March 01, 1998|By GREGORY KANE

I walked into the administration building of the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School for boys and saw him in person for the first time. The gray suit was impeccably pressed. The smile came almost immediately.

He was shorter than I'd expected, but that didn't matter. I knew the man was, to many people, a giant in so many other ways. So I'd met face-to-face with Boyse Mosley at last.

Just that morning, news reports said Baltimore's school board might have to extend its search for a new school chief. What kind of people look for something that's right under their noses? Could we call them seriously cognitively challenged?

Mosley, the administrator at Hickey, spent 28 years in the city school system. He was a teacher at Douglass High School, an assistant principal at Edmondson High School, Forest Park High School, Lake Clifton High School, and principal at Gwynns Falls Junior High School and Northwestern High.

And he's already been a superintendent. He was regional superintendent between his stints as assistant principal at Lake Clifton and principal at Gwynns Falls. He has the experience. He has the leadership ability. So why not hire this man?

Because he's an inveterate utterer of the truth, that's why. He's also not afraid to advocate unpopular ideas. When he was principal of Northwestern, he saw one student -- a white girl -- in a car with four black boys. He ordered her out. He didn't like the look of it. Some suggested that what the girl did after school was none of Mosley's business. But isn't it nice to have a school administrator who, even if he errs, errs on the side of safety?

At one point, Mosley suggested abolishing athletics at Northwestern and using the money saved on such things as reading and math. He predicted, years before it happened, that city educators had best get on the ball in educating students or the state would take over the job. Mosley resigned from the city public school system, citing students' increasing disrespect and disdain for learning as two of the reasons.

"When I taught at Douglass, students were more focused, more concerned about education," Mosley recalled. "Parents took greater concern for their children's education. Today there is little or no parent support. The [teachers] union influence is too great, in the sense that teachers think of teaching as a job rather than a profession."

Such thinking -- a willingness to criticize students, teachers and parents -- is what makes folks nervous about Mosley as superintendent. Asked why he hasn't even been considered for the job Mosley cited "my outspokenness, my willingness to call things as they were," as the main reason.

"I was not a favorite in the black community," Mosley said. Some blacks were afraid of his ideas. Mosley found that out years ago, when he was at a meeting of principals of the city's comprehensive high school. Mosley put a question to the gathering:

"Why is it that the blacker the school, the lower the test scores?"

The question infuriated the other principals. Such queries weren't supposed to be made, especially when black liberal dogma had already given the answer: The fault lay with those horrible, nasty white racists who refused to allocate more money to city schools.

"But the problem isn't money," Mosley insisted. He didn't ask his question to imply that black students were inferior. Mosley believes any student can learn in an environment where order and discipline prevail. He said the average SAT score for students at Hickey, a school for juvenile offenders, is 910. That may not sound impressive. But Don Trost, Hickey's principal, said most of the students come there reading on the first- and second-grade level.

As superintendent, Mosley said, he would make certain that discipline and order were the norm, foster a friendly environment so that teachers could use their creativity and eliminate tenure.

"I'd have a one-year performance contract for teachers and a three-year performance contract for principals," Mosley said. "I'd have a more structured, more rigid and more uniform curriculum."

Baltimore lost a treasured asset when Mosley retired from the system. But his experience at Northwestern didn't sour him on education. The idea of running Hickey intrigued him.

"I've always had this great desire to come to Hickey," Mosley said. "I've always wondered how I would do running a residential school."

Running Hickey does have certain advantages. Mosley flashed a mischievous grin when he talked about the most obvious one.

"Here I have perfect attendance. Attendance is not a problem anymore." But it is in city schools, which proves Mosley's point about the difference between students when he taught and those of today.

"Students had the will to learn then," Mosley reminisced. "Now they don't."

Pub Date: 3/01/98

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