A 62-year-old guidance counselor at Howard High School in Ellicott City was arrested yesterday and charged with having crack cocaine in his vehicle in the school parking lot, according to Howard County police.
Police received a tip on a drug hot line alleging that Alan Silberman, a 35-year veteran of Howard County schools from Owings Mills, was a drug user, said Sherry Llewellyn, a spokeswoman for police.
Detectives took a dog to the parking lot to check Silberman's vehicle about 1:30 p.m., and the dog alerted police, Llewellyn said.
"We do not believe at this stage of the investigation that he was involved in any sort of larger-scale operation," Llewellyn said. "We received a tip that he was involved with drugs, and we followed up on the tip."
Silberman is the fourth Howard County high school teacher arrested this year. The other three arrests involved allegations of improper sexual conduct.
"It's been an unusual year," Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin said of the number of employees arrested this year. "We have some cases that are still pending."
Cousin declined to comment on Silberman's arrest.
"We expect [teachers] to abide by all the laws and to set an example for others," Cousin said.
Sandra H. French, a veteran Howard County school board member, said Silberman seemed to be a dedicated employee.
"He was very nice, very sharp, very professional," said French, describing a meeting she had with Silberman a few years ago at a Howard High School event.
French, who recently voted with the other six school board members to terminate one of the three teachers charged with improper sexual conduct, said she will reserve judgment on Silberman until she knows more about the case.
"I'm very dismayed, obviously. I'm sorry it happened," she said. "It's terrible, but it is not a reflection of our wonderful teachers. A vast majority of the teachers are law-abiding, wonderful citizens. It is heartbreaking when someone does this. It hurts all of us. I am extremely disappointed."
After receiving a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Connecticut, Silberman began his career in Howard County as a math and science teacher at Wilde Lake Middle School in 1970. In 1975, he became a guidance counselor at Harper's Choice Middle School after receiving a master's degree in guidance and counseling from the University of Maryland.
He taught overseas from 1985 to 1987, then returned to Harper's Choice Middle.
Since he was hired by Howard High School in 1992, Silberman has been the senior counselor for six graduating classes. He has also coordinated SAT and PSAT testing programs, military academy nights and SAT classes.
Chelsea Everett, Howard High's junior class president, said Silberman is a popular teacher who is involved in many activities.
"He encourages students a lot," Everett said. "He is well liked. I'm totally shocked."
Everett said Silberman sings every year in the school's talent competition.
"He is an impressive singer. He's good," she said.