Schools act on criminal problem

Booker will decide actions to take on workers with records

Principals had power

May 13, 1999|By Stephen Henderson | Stephen Henderson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore schools chief Robert Booker will make all decisions about how the system handles employees with criminal pasts, rather than allow principals and low-level administrators to do so, school officials said yesterday.

The announcement follows a report yesterday by The Sun that teacher Janyce Dyson -- who has a 20-year criminal history in three states -- was allowed to keep her job for nearly 15 months after the system learned about her crimes.

After learning of Dyson's crimes, which included a 1996 conviction for defrauding a local Hecht's store of more than $20,000, Dyson's principal at Fort Worthington Elementary in East Baltimore decided no action against her was necessary. No administrators overruled the principal.

Dyson was transferred to William Paca Elementary without her new principal being told of her criminal history.

"All of this kind of information will now be brought to Dr. Booker's attention whenever it comes up," said schools spokeswoman Vanessa Pyatt. "And he will make a case-by-case decision as to how the situations will be resolved. It's no longer going to be an area executive or a principal. It will only be Dr. Booker."

In addition, Pyatt said, the system is developing a "comprehensive policy," which will be distributed to all key personnel, that outlines what should be done when employees' criminal pasts are discovered.

"We want to make sure everyone is on board, so that this type of slippage does not occur again," Pyatt said. Previously, some school officials insisted that principals could decide for themselves how information about an employee's criminal record should be handled -- a policy that conflicted in some cases with the board's stated goal of removing convicted criminals from classrooms.

"Our focus is to make sure we avoid situations like that in the future," Pyatt said.

The system is continuing its investigation into Dyson's criminal history and employment. Dyson has been suspended and receives no pay. But no permanent personnel action -- such as a firing -- will be taken until the investigation is complete, Pyatt said.

Dyson is in custody at the Baltimore County Women's Detention Center, awaiting a hearing on the charge that she violated the probation she received for her 1996 conviction. According to court files, Dyson orchestrated an effort to defraud the Towson Hecht's store of $23,186.16 while she worked there between November and December 1995.

Dyson also has several other convictions on her record, dating to 1979, for theft, fraud and bad checks, according to city school police. She has committed crimes in Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, police said.

She was hired by the school system in 1987.

School board member Ed Brody said having all of the decision-making power in Booker's hands makes sense.

"He'll work with our security department and with our legal department to determine what we're required to do by law," Brody said. "And we're confident that we've got a firm, fair and compassionate person who will be doing that. The main thing we're concerned with is doing the right thing for the children."

Pub Date: 5/13/99

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.