Parham school building is sought

Groups seek renaming of headquarters for her

November 20, 2001|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,SUN STAFF

The Anne Arundel County branch of the NAACP wants the county school system's headquarters renamed for outgoing superintendent Carol S. Parham - and they're not the only ones.

A number of community groups, along with an Annapolis city council member and two members-elect, are joining the county chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in pushing the county school board to rename the 28-year-old building on Riva Road. A petition is circulating in county churches.

Parham, who has been superintendent for eight years, is leaving Dec. 30 to take a professorship at the University of Maryland, College Park.

"She's leaving at the peak of her popularity and effectiveness, and this is a much better school system because of her," said Carl O. Snowden, special assistant to County Executive Janet S. Owens.

Parham was out of town yesterday and could not be reached for comment, but Snowden said she is aware of the group's efforts and is not discouraging them.

Several teachers, however, questioned the wisdom of bestowing such an honor on Parham before she's left office and while her legacy is still unclear.

"Carol has done a good job, but naming a building after her at this point is not a reasonable idea," said Tom Paolino, a teacher at George Fox Middle School in Pasadena and former president of the county teachers association.

He noted that previous superintendents have served longer and don't have so much as a classroom named after them. Edward J. Anderson was superintendent from 1968 to 1984, and Davis S. Jenkins from 1946 to 1968.

Susie Jablinske, the current president the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, praised Parham's success in getting more money from the county, but said teacher morale is still suffering because of a heavy workload and the demands of statewide tests.

Most teachers, Jablinske said, probably wouldn't care one way or another if the building were named for Parham.

"Personally," she said, "naming buildings after people, especially when they're still alive, I think it's unnecessary."

But school board member Tony Spencer said, "I say give people their flowers while they're alive. It's the least we could do for her after what she's done for the school system."

In a letter to the school board, Gerald G. Stansbury, president of the Anne Arundel chapter of the NAACP, wrote: "Dr. Parham's tenure as superintendent has been noted for its historic and competent administration. Dr. Parham, who was the first African-American and female to hold this post, has demonstrated that competency and excellence is not gender or color based."

Parham became superintendent in 1993, after a sex scandal had claimed the previous schools chief.

In 1996, the Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland named her Superintendent of the Year.

Last year, Parham was the target of racially charged death threats for her plan to temporarily move students from mostly white Mayo Elementary School to mostly black Annapolis Middle School.

"What more fitting way to speak against bigotry than for this school board to name its building after an African-American woman who has been the subject of death threats?" Snowden said. "It will speak volumes about where the school board stands and it will be a lasting testament to community opposition to bigotry."

Local chapters of the United Black Clergy, the Black Political Forum and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women support the movement. Annapolis Alderman Cynthia Carter and aldermen-elect Classie G. Hoyle and George O. Kelley Sr. also are in favor of the name change.

School board President Carlesa Finney wants to put the matter on the agenda for the board meeting Dec. 5. But before that happens, the school board attorney is checking county policy to see whether a building can be named after a living person.

Snowden said there is precedent: Buildings, parks and other monuments have been named for Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller; William Donald Schaefer, former governor and Baltimore mayor, and now state comptroller; and - before his death - longtime state comptroller Louis L. Goldstein.

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