Supporters urge panel to rehire principal Community packs meeting of school board to back Northern's retired leader

July 22, 1998|By Stephen Henderson | Stephen Henderson,SUN STAFF

Nearly a dozen parents, teachers and community members who support recently retired Northern High School principal Alice Morgan-Brown crowded the city school board meeting last night to deliver a message: Bring Brown back.

The group has been organizing for the past few weeks in an attempt to persuade school board members to reconsider hiring a new principal at the troubled school.

"We want her retirement rescinded," Northern PTA president Victoria Matthews told board members. "It's like planting a seed. When it begins to grow, you want to think it's a continuous process. You have to allow her to keep growing the seed."

Brown retired from her post earlier this month after weeks of speculation that she would be fired. Neither school board members nor interim schools chief Robert E. Schiller would comment on whether Brown's choice was the result of a negotiated effort to avoid an embarrassing public ouster.

Brown had been under fire from school officials since last November when she made national headlines by suspending two-thirds of her 1,800 students. She caught media attention again in January, when she put 50 students out for good.

For months, national and local pundits debated whether Brown's actions were a stroke of genius or the desperate flailings of an incompetent leader.

School officials removed more than a dozen principals this spring, and community members organized to try to force nearly all of their re-hirings. So far, the school board has not relented, and everyone who was pushed out remains out.

Testimonials last night portrayed Brown strictly as the school's savior.

"Dr. Brown helped kids who never thought they would go to college believe in themselves, and I know because I was one of them," said Kristin Harrison, who graduated from Northern in June. "I'm going to Morgan State University in the fall, and I'm a graduate of the environmental sciences program at Northern. That program wasn't there before Dr. Brown got there."

Harrison also predicted doom for the school now that Brown is gone.

"Kids knew before that Dr. Brown didn't mess around, but now every knucklehead, every thug in the city will know Northern is the place to be," Harrison said.

Parent Aaron Green suggested that the school board concentrate on replacing central office administrators.

"There's a lot of deadwood down here," Green said with a gesture that seemed to implicate the administrators gathered at the meeting. "Why don't you do something about them, rather than going out and picking on individual principals?"

Pub Date: 7/22/98

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