Rift blamed for PTA Council leader's resignation

Problems started in fall when superintendent was ousted from meeting

February 16, 1999|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Carroll County's PTA has been without a president for three months because of a rift among the group's executive board over the treatment of Superintendent William H. Hyde at a fall meeting.

Laura Rhodes said she resigned as president of the Carroll County PTA Council in October because other board members objected to the way she handled an incident involving Hyde.

Rhodes said Hyde was offended after she mistakenly asked him to leave a PTA Council board meeting Oct 5.

School board President Gary W. Bauer said he's worried about the PTA Council's effectiveness and its ability to keep the school board abreast of issues at the individual school level while it is lacking a leader.

"To me it was an error, and it just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger," said Rhodes, who began her two-year term as PTA Council president in July. "It was blown so far out of whack."

Rhodes said her fellow board members criticized her actions.

Lynn Earp, PTA Council first vice president, described the matter as a "nightmare" and said it has dominated PTA executive board meetings for three months.

She said the executive board has asked for volunteers to replace Rhodes, but no one has stepped forward.

"It takes a lot of time to be the president of that organization," Bauer said. "Apparently, there's not anybody willing to make that commitment."

PTA executive board members say they're trying to put Rhodes' resignation behind them.

"The way I see it, Laura Rhodes made a blunder; rack that up to being new," Earp said. "It wasn't so much that she asked him to leave, it was the manner in which she asked him. I think he responded like any other human being would if their feelings had been stepped on."

Rhodes said Hyde refused to accept her apologies.

"The statements she made to me were explanations for the reasons for her behavior," Hyde said. "And my response was I don't recall thinking of that as an apology or as a situation that warranted an apology."

The PTA Council is made up of an executive board -- which includes a president, teacher and principal representatives and other officers -- and parent representatives from the PTAs at county schools. The council serves as a liaison between the state and local PTAs, provides leadership and training to the local groups and promotes legislative issues at state and national levels.

Earp said executive board members are sharing Rhodes' duties and the council is seeking nominations for council president.

Rhodes said her decision to resign relates to the repercussions that grew out of the Oct. 5 PTA council executive board meeting.

When Hyde came to the meeting, she asked him if he could wait outside because she wanted to discuss problems brought to her attention concerning his administration. Since Hyde became superintendent in July, Rhodes said, some parents told her they felt excluded from the school system.

Rhodes said she was unaware that Hyde had a right to be at the board meeting, under PTA regulations. Hyde left the room and returned for the PTA Council meeting with representatives from local schools.

After the meeting, Rhodes said, she tried to apologize to a visibly angry Hyde, but he wasn't receptive.

"He declined to accept my apology," she said. "He said he'd never come to another council meeting again. He walked away and closed the door in my face."

On Oct. 12, Rhodes said she hand-delivered a letter to Hyde's office to apologize again. Four days later, having received no response, Rhodes said she sent an e-mail to Hyde, inviting him to a special PTA board meeting on Oct. 18 to work things out.

"He didn't want to talk to me no matter what I did to apologize," she said. "All I could do was hold my hand out and say, `Meet me halfway,' and nothing."

At the Oct. 18 meeting, Earp said three board members decided to meet with Hyde to discuss the matter with him. Although she agreed to the plan, Rhodes said she resigned on Oct. 21 because she believed she no longer had the support of the board.

"They didn't like my style and I couldn't handle theirs," she said.

Hyde's interpretation of the events surrounding the Oct. 5 meeting differs greatly from Rhodes'.

"She said she had not understood the [PTA] bylaws and my response was to say that I would honor the wishes of the organization and it was my intention not to attend future executive board meetings but to attend the open part of the council meetings," Hyde said.

"I can recall her providing an explanation of a decision that she had made, which at the time I thought was an adequate explanation of the rationale behind her decision."

As for closing the door in Rhodes' face, Hyde said, "I have no recollection of that taking place at all. It's not my style to slam doors in people's faces."

Hyde said he did not respond to Rhodes' call, letter and e-mail because he was out of town from Oct. 16 to Oct. 22 at a conference in Texas. Before that, he was at a superintendent training program.

Hyde said he sent an e-mail to Rhodes on Oct. 22, saying he planned to respond to her later. In the e-mail he added, "I'm not certain what it is you were referencing and could you clarify."

On Oct. 28, Hyde acknowl- edged receipt of Rhodes' resignation in a letter.

Rhodes said Hyde's Oct. 22 message was "too little too late" because she had already resigned.

"I don't know what Bill Hyde had in mind, whether he was too busy to respond or he just did not think it was worth responding," Rhodes said. "That he chooses to ignore a problem with the largest parent organization in the county, that says a lot right there."

Hyde, who said he attended the PTA Council meeting this month "for a few minutes," said he has an "excellent" working relationship with the group.

Pub Date: 2/16/99

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