Carroll County group petitions for removal of top school officials

April 21, 2000|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

A Carroll County-based advocacy group has begun circulating petitions demanding the removal of top school administrators, including Superintendent William H. Hyde, and school board members, accusing them of improper conduct and unaccountability.

Upset about what they call the arrogance and improper oversight in the school system, members of the Group for Accountability in Government and Industry have drafted two petitions: one for the removal of Hyde and Assistant Superintendent Vernon F. Smith Jr., and the other for the ouster of school board President C. Scott Stone and board member Gary W. Bauer, who served as board president last year.

Led by Marcel J. van Rossum, the group of about 25 Carroll County residents hopes to collect 10,000 signatures and attract the attention of school board members and county commissioners who are in a position to make personnel changes.

"The petition was the only way to make them realize that there is a very large segment of this population that is dissatisfied with the way they're doing business and that until they can account for every dollar they spent -- and I mean every dollar they spent, which they are unable to do right now -- there is something very wrong," said van Rossum, a South Carroll resident with two children in public schools.

Hyde and Smith said they were aware of the petition but declined to comment further.

"I don't know where these accusations are coming from," said Bauer, adding that he thought all the board's closed meetings were appropriate and legal. He also said Maryland has no election recall procedure, making it impossible to have him removed from office.

Stone did not return messages left yesterday at his home and office.

Both petitions specifically mention improprieties regarding con- struction management and oversight in the distribution of funds. The petition for Hyde and Smith also accuses them of improper intimidation of school system employees. The second petition accuses Stone and Bauer of holding improper closed meetings and a lack of disclosure to the public.

Formed in 1979 as a Ralph Nader-like consumer advocacy group, the organization has about 300 members across the country and 100 in Carroll, van Rossum said.

"Then we expanded to government because we've found that government needs the most scrutiny and oversight," he said.

Members decided to take on the school system, van Rossum said, shortly after school officials began redrawing school boundaries and redistricting thousands of students to balance enrollments across the county. The group contends that redistricting began to justify the "pet project" school construction plans of county commissioners and school administrators.

In addition, van Rossum said the school board has failed its mission as a liaison between the community and the school administration and county government.

"The way business is done in Carroll County is that the administration dictates to the school board what their needs are, and the school board rubber stamps everything that comes out of that office," he said. "Quite frankly, that's not fair to the students and to the teachers because that has an effect on the bottom line, which is the quality of education in general."

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