Dismissed school official looking to the courts

Ex-chief business officer wants his firing reviewed

July 27, 2005|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

After exhausting administrative remedies to protest his firing, Howard County school system's former chief business officer is looking to the courts for vindication.

Bruce M. Venter's attorney filed a request last week in Howard County Circuit Court for judicial review of decisions by the Maryland and the Howard County boards of education to uphold Venter's dismissal by then-Superintendent John R. O'Rourke.

In September 2003, O'Rourke fired Venter, accusing him of not informing the superintendent, senior school administrators and the school board that the construction of Marriotts Ridge High School was off schedule.

Venter said he had pointed that out several times and claimed his dismissal was arbitrary and did not comply with state regulations governing the firing of educational professionals. Venter, who now works for the Isle of Wight school system in Virginia, appealed to the Howard County school board.

The school board in December upheld Venter's firing but also chided O'Rourke for his handling of Venter's dismissal.

In turn, Venter appealed the school board's decision to the state Board of Education, which affirmed the local board's ruling.

The petition for judicial review, filed Friday, also asks the court for declaratory judgment, or resolutions to "nagging issues," including a right to an open appeals hearing and recognition of Venter's out-of-state educational certificate, said Allen Dyer, Venter's lawyer.

Dyer and Venter had fought to have Venter's appeal before the Howard school board open to the public but dropped their efforts to push the case through.

In the second matter, the school board said Venter does not fall under a Maryland law that governs certified education professionals, such as teachers and administrators. The law calls for certified employees to be given written charges before their removal.

Venter holds administration certifications in Virginia and New York.

"We believe that it would be [to] the benefit of the community and others for the judge to look at these legal issues," Dyer said.

Courtney Watson, the county school board chairman, said she was not surprised by Dyer's move. "We look forward to the court upholding the board's decision."

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