Gilman School headmaster announces plan to resign

He says decision made before Lancers incident

March 10, 2000|By Michael James and Eric Siegel | Michael James and Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

The headmaster of one of Baltimore's most prestigious boys schools said yesterday that he will resign next year, capping a tenure that has at times put him in the spotlight of controversy.

Archibald R. Montgomery IV made the announcement less than a month after perhaps the most turbulent incident he faced in eight years as headmaster of Gilman School.

Montgomery, 47, who will leave July 1, 2001, had decided last month to temporarily bar the noted Lancers Boys Club from campus in the wake of a student's allegation against its founder, Robert I. H. Hammerman, a retired Baltimore Circuit Court judge. Opinion was split at the school over the handling of the incident.

Montgomery and the president of Gilman's board of trustees, Stephen T. Scott, said yesterday that the resignation had nothing to do with the Lancers issue. Each also said Montgomery had informed the trustees of his intention to leave at least two weeks before the Lancers situation.

"I just felt I needed change and I told the board that at the end of January," Montgomery said. "What a shame it is that some people will assume incorrectly that Archibald Montgomery has to leave because of the Hammerman incident."

Montgomery is leaving as the 103-year-old North Baltimore school appears to be flourishing.

Nearly one in five seniors has been accepted to an Ivy League college this year, and the school's football team, undefeated last season, was ranked No. 1 by The Sun.

But Montgomery from time to time has faced pressure from parents, the media and the public -- something the usually quiet campus is unaccustomed to.

In 1994, more than 40 Gilman students were implicated in a drug scandal, prompting the expulsion of four students.

"Headmasters have to make a lot of decisions about powerful people's children," Montgomery said. "At Gilman, you are constantly under the spotlight."

The Hammerman incident stemmed from a Gilman class speech given Feb. 7 by a member of the Lancers, who told an assembly of students and faculty that Hammerman gave him inappropriate glances four years ago while showering after a round of tennis. Hammerman, who has headed the club for more than 50 years, denied improprieties.

Montgomery said after that speech, because of community concern, he temporarily barred the Lancers -- an independent civic club -- from using campus facilities. He also sent a letter to parents asking them to talk to their children and call Gilman officials with any questions or information.

Some criticized his handling of the incident, saying it amounted to overreaction. The Baltimore state's attorney's office, which received a copy of the speech, is investigating. Montgomery said yesterday that "a hiatus" remains in effect on the Lancers using school facilities.

Several people yesterday defended Montgomery for his handling of sensitive issues at the school -- including the concern surrounding the student's speech.

"I think that situation was handled by the school very well," said Anton Vishio, the dean of faculty who has taught Latin and Greek at Gilman for 35 years.

Nancy Rich Marbury, a member of Gilman's executive committee and head of the upper school at St. Paul's School for Girls, agreed.

"He had to balance protecting the school and dealing with Judge Hammerman with dignity," she said. "I don't know how else he could have handled it."

Scott, head of the Gilman board of trustees, lauded Montgomery's work at Gilman and reiterated that Montgomery had made plans to leave before the controversy, a point also made by two other board members.

"He's been an excellent headmaster," Scott said. "He has helped hire some really wonderful people and the school is in excellent shape."

Mark Fetting -- a board member, alumnus and parent of two Gilman students -- was named to head a search committee for a successor to Montgomery.

Montgomery said he feels this is a good time to leave because the school has just completed a plan which culminated with the school's $18 million fund-raising campaign.

He said he plans to look for another job as a school headmaster when he finishes at Gilman.

"I want to be a headmaster, that's what I do," he said. "I want Gilman to move forward really positively. Gilman is a fine, steady place with superb teachers and talented students."

Sun staff writer Caitlin Francke contributed to this article.

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